Leaning on data privacy regulation to support innovation


Door-to-door delivery services require that we share personal data with a third-parties. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Debating policy and regulation can be a long-winded and sometimes frustrating affair, a mash-up of the philosophical, logical and even downright absurd. I am a strong proponent of looking at the spirt of any laid down regulation and take it in the context of prevailing circumstances to determine whether an action would pass as acceptable.

Granted, the Data Protection Act already addresses key issues under Part IV — Principles and Obligations of Personal Data Protection, covering principles of personal data protection, rights of a data subject, exercise of rights by the data subject, collection of personal data, duty to notify, lawful processing of personal data and conditions for consent, yet many will still argue on the side of pseudo-infringement, often from an emotive position.

Extenuating circumstances such as those presented by the current pandemic must have us explore the possibilities of leveraging data that is readily available to us from both the government and private sector to drive interventions that will most probably stem losses on the business and human front by identifying loopholes, at-risk persons, potential carriers and their immediate universe, connecting them to curative and preventive interventions.

After the mad rush to local supermarkets and convenience stores had us curiously stock on bales of toilet paper, e-commerce, and logistics players have seen up to 300 percent increase in business as thousands take the social distancing and stay at home directive seriously.

Door-to-door delivery services require that we share personal data with a third-parties and the convenience of it all, not eliciting a second thought or sliver of doubt. Our movement and other personally identifying data is strewn all over the place with different vendors locally, other digital platforms that we patronise daily and of course government.

Guided by the Data Protection Act and under the watch of mandated civil society organisations to ensure compliance and mitigate any trust issues, we need to see and think of ourselves as capable of more!

We are in a Petri dish situation and there could be no better time than now, to test different levels of commercial and technical partnerships that draw on local talent and technologically inclined citizen contractors that would see us go beyond providing colourful visualisations of World Health Organisation data and onward to made for purpose tools and tangible action with the shared vision of saving lives and pushing us off the current trajectory headed toward an economic recession.