Victor Kapiyo, ICT Lawyer, making a presentation on behalf of KICTANET on Progressive and problematic trends on data protection with recommendations around cross-border data protection

Unlocking the Future of Data Governance: Insights from the NADPA-RAPDP Conference

By Linda Gichohi

Privacy is not an option, and it shouldn’t be the price we accept for just getting on the internet.” – Gary Kovacs

In the vast expanse of the digital landscape, where information flows freely and boundaries blur, the preservation of privacy stands as a fundamental imperative. 

As I reflect on my recent participation in the  Network of African Data Protection Authorities, NADPA-RAPDP Annual General Meeting and Conference, held at Windsor Golf Hotel and Country Club, the resounding message echoed by esteemed speakers and panellists alike was clear: safeguarding data is paramount in upholding trust and integrity in the digital era.

Throughout the conference, discussions delved into the multifaceted challenges and opportunities presented by the rapid digitization of our society. From the urgent need to fortify cybersecurity infrastructure and accelerate connectivity to the imperative of fostering cross-border collaboration and harmonizing data protection frameworks, the conference served as a crucible for advancing solutions to the complex issues at the intersection of technology, privacy, and governance.

The conference commenced with a resounding call to action and opening remarks from eminent figures such as Office of the Data Protection Commissioner Immaculate Kassait, Lady Chief Justice  Hon. Martha Koome, Ambassadors, Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of ICT and Digital Economy Eliud Owalo among a few others setting the stage for insightful discussions ahead and underscoring the imperative of robust data protection frameworks in the digital age.

The principal secretary, State Department for ICT and the Digital Economy, Eng. John Tanui emphasized the imperative of accelerating connectivity and digitization across the continent, echoing the sentiments of many other dignitaries present. With representatives from various African nations and international bodies, the conference promised a comprehensive approach to address the challenges and harness the opportunities presented by the digital age.

One of the highlights was the address by German Ambassador Sebastian, who underscored the critical role of robust data protection frameworks in fostering trust and facilitating economic partnerships. His remarks resonated with the audience, particularly as he elucidated the economic potential unleashed by secure data flows between Kenya and the EU. The European Union representative further emphasized the need for collaboration in revolutionizing healthcare and building smart cities, laying the groundwork for a mutually beneficial relationship between Africa and its closest neighbour.

Hon. Chief Justice Martha Koome’s intervention brought to light the intersection of privacy rights and access to justice in the digital era. Her emphasis on safeguarding privacy as a fundamental human right underscored the gravity of the issues at hand

As discussions delved into cyberbullying and child protection online, it became evident that a holistic approach involving public education and proactive measures was imperative to create a safe digital space for all.

CS Eliud Owalo’s call for a robust risk digital framework encapsulated the overarching theme of the conference: balancing innovation with security in the digital realm. The subsequent panel sessions explored a myriad of topics, from cross-border data governance to the future of digital sovereignty in Africa. Each session contributed to a nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, reaffirming the need for concerted efforts and collaborative initiatives.

During the conference, CEO Dr Grace Githaiga and Victor Kapiyo from the Kenya ICT Action Network launched the Data Protection Policy Brief and presented provided valuable insights into the achievements, challenges and recommendations of the Data Protection Act 2019, as well as a roadmap for advancing data governance in Kenya, digital safety and beyond. 

This seminal data protection policy brief not only celebrated the strides made in bolstering data protection frameworks but also issued a clarion call for continued vigilance and proactive measures to address emerging threats and vulnerabilities focusing on the five-year reflections of the Data Protection Act and the need for independence of the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.

Panel discussions on cross-border data governance, digital sovereignty, artificial intelligence, online safety and the future of data protection regulation shed light on the intricate interplay between technological innovation and individual privacy rights. 

As we navigate this ever-evolving landscape, it is incumbent upon us to embrace collaboration, innovation, and responsible data stewardship to safeguard privacy and uphold trust in the digital age.

As the conference drew to a close, the resounding message echoed by participants was clear: data governance is not merely a regulatory imperative but a fundamental driver of inclusive growth, social empowerment, and technological innovation. By fostering a culture of collaboration, innovation, and responsible stewardship of data, we can harness the transformative power of digital technologies to build a more resilient, equitable, and prosperous future for all.

The NADPA-RAPDP Conference served as a beacon of inspiration and collaboration in navigating the complex terrain of data governance in the digital age. As we reflect on the rich insights and thought-provoking discussions shared during this landmark event, let us reaffirm our collective commitment to advancing data protection principles, fostering cross-border cooperation, and unlocking the full potential of data for the benefit of humanity.

In closing, let us heed the wisdom of Gary Kovacs and recognize that privacy is not a luxury but a fundamental right that must be preserved and protected. By championing the principles of data protection, fostering dialogue and cooperation, and harnessing the power of technology for good, we can build a more resilient, inclusive, and trustworthy digital ecosystem for generations to come.


Linda Gichohi is a lawyer, a KICTANet Legal Fellow, and a Gender Program Assistant. She has an interest in women’s digital rights and access to justice for technology-facilitated violence. 



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