Data Protection Commissioner announces opportunities for the ODPC and stakeholders to collaborate during dual data protection report launch

December 3, 2021 - Reading Time: 2 minutes - By Amrit Labhuram

Kenya’s Data Protection Commissioner Immaculate Kassait has asked stakeholders to collaborate with her office to increase awareness of Data Protection laws and simplification of the legal framework. 

Ms Kassait said it is not the sole responsibility of the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner to ensure data protection compliance. 

“The multifaceted data protection stakeholder should engage in awareness campaigns for digital rights agendas, including the designation of data champions amongst both data controllers and data subjects,” said Ms Kasait.

She spoke this week at the launch of Open Institute’s study on Subnational Data Practices in Kenya and Amnesty International Kenya’s Comparative Data Regimes Report on Wednesday 1st December 2021.

Awareness of data protection is needed at a subnational level and amongst rural populations,  with a particular focus on the informal economy, she said, and needs to be spread to vulnerable members of society such as women, children and the elderly. 

She said ODPC also needs assistance in simplification of the current data protection legal framework so that rural and marginalised demographics are well informed of their rights and duties. 

Also needed is the development of sectoral specific data protection impact assessments guidelines. The guidelines shall provide frameworks for the evaluation of data protection compliance, cognizant of the sector specific data considerations.

The office has also asked for support in lobbying efforts for a larger budget for the office to ensure there are adequate human and financial resources to perform its functions and  support for the development of regulations that will expedite the operationalisation of the Data Protection Act. 

The ODPC is financially independent through budget allocation directly from the National Treasury. The ODPC is no longer dependent on the Ministry of ICT to provide funding, and the significantly larger budget from Kshs 24 million to Kshs 270 million will allow the Commission to fulfill its mandate. 

Open Institute (OI) and Amnesty International Kenya (AIK) are jointly running a project that aims to ensure that Kenya operationalizes the Data Protection Act through citizen-responsive guidelines and in line with international best practices.

Open Institute’s (OI) study sought to identify best practices and illuminate barriers in deployment of internationally accepted data protection principles at the sub-national level. 

This was also undertaken in view of the opportunities and challenges offered by the Constitution, the County Government Act, the Access to Information Act, and the Data Protection Act. 

The study covered five counties, namely: Makueni, Vihiga, Kilifi, Bomet and Taita Taveta.

Amnesty International Kenya’s (AIK) comparative study report examined data protection regimes across the world aimed at generating best practices to inform Kenya’s Data Protection Commissioner and her office as they roll out their implementation of the Data protection Act. 

The report maps out the best practices for establishing a financially and functionally independent Data Commissioner’s Office. In addition, it identifies best practices in funding the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner. The report further identifies sets of regulations necessary to give full effect to the Data Protection Act.

During her keynote speech at the report launch, Madam Commissioner lauded the detailed reports by OI and AIK, exclaiming that successful strategic investments are impossible without timely and relevant research. Understanding the existing data protection gaps at the national and subnational level as well as having oversight of international best practices shall propel the ODPC to serve as model Data Protection Authority. 

The ODPC is currently seeking to develop a fund for generating alternate sources of income other than the National Treasury allocation. Currently, regulations are being developed in order to operationalise the fund.

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