Data Localisation is the New Topic for 2021
At the beginning of the year, EFA in conversation with the AU suggested a conference on Data Sovereignty and Data Localisation. The AU acted on that idea and set up a conference last month with the help of USAID. EFA was a speaker. The issues are as follows – data flows are essential for the smooth running of the digital economy. Data is made up of non-personal data (statistics, trade data, intellectual property, trademarks, etc) and also personal data. There are various laws protecting this data. Some countries want to ensure that not only their laws will apply to all this data generated in their country (“data sovereignty”) but also that any such data must be stored within the country (data localisation), and (the most extreme version) that all data – private and public – must be made available for the public good.
Readers will recall that the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) issued a paper proposing more data localisation in SA with data shared “to assist with service provision to citizens”.
The debate is also added to the WTO’s long list of difficult issues (see above) and was referred to in the panel EFA spoke at on 30 September. This is not a clear-cut issue, as much as some may wish to believe. There are those who argue that “data is the new oil of global trade” (the cost of data varies enormously, and unlike fuel, the cost rapidly reduces over time). On the other hand open, free data is not feasible, and there are companies that can access too much without proper governance. Last year’s data breach at Experian which “lost’ all its extensive database to an unknown direct marketer is a case in point – too much data without adequate governance.
The UNCTAD has issued a new report – see below. It held a conference on that, also on 30 Sept. EFA attended. Speakers included the EU Commissioner for Justice calling for general adoption of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). EFA had pointed out at the WTO meeting that the GDPR is quite unsuitable outside Europe and that the Council of Europe’s Convention 108 is a far better solution in Africa.
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