Kampala–Media houses, online shops, and other organizations face sanctions by the Ministry of ICT through the National Information Technology Authority-Uganda (NITA-U), for misusing or mishandling people’s private data.
This comes as the government finalizes the operationalization of the Data Protection and Privacy Act 2019, with the opening of the Personal Data Protection Office (PDPO) and the Data Protection and Privacy Portal.
The portal will among other things ease reporting, processing, and resolving of data protection and privacy complaints and breaches.
Stella Alibateese, the Director, PDPO, Stella says all agencies and private organizations that deal with collecting and using people’s personal data are now required to register with the office, or they will be penalized.
Since early March when one of the modules of the portal was made accessible to the public, 338 organizations have been registered including financial institutions, insurance providers, health care management facilities, telecom companies, hotel and accommodation facilities, institutions of learning, and government bodies.
Speaking during the launch of the portal at Uganda Media Center on Tuesday, Alibateese said media houses are also supposed to register and comply with the laws, giving the example of publication of personal data which can be an offense.
The Personal Data Protection Office is open to individuals to file their complaints if they are concerned that their personal data protection rights have not been respected, and have failed to resolve the matter with the organization involved. The Portal is aimed at making the filing and resolution of such complaints easy.
Alibateesa says any company or agency violating the laws and regulations will be prosecuted, with some of the penalties including imprisonment of the directors responsible.
The access to information through the integration of various Government systems initiatives by NITA-U leverages the government’s efforts in providing services quickly and efficiently.
One of the complaints from the public concerning identification, for example, has been the inability of the government and public sectors to be able to access a centralized database, like NIRA.
This is being developed and already working in some insistence in the financial sector during verification of identification.
However, the NITA-Uganda Executive Director, Hatwib Mugasa says that sometimes, some agencies ask for too much information including some which are not even relevant to them, which increases the risk of misusing it.
Mugasa, says NITA-Uganda is leading the integration of government systems to enhance shared access to information by the different data users.
The Portal has been developed with support from the United Nations Capital Development Fund, UNCDF in Uganda. It will be available to the public through various channels for convenience, including the portal itself and mobile phone SMS and short codes, through which individuals may file their complaints.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of ICT, Amina Zawedde says they have officially written to all public bodies requiring all Accounting Officers to comply with the law starting with registering their respective entities with the Personal Data Protection Office.
ICT Minister Chris Baryomunsi noted that embracing the services on these digitized platforms requires trust from the intended beneficiaries.
“Therefore, data protection and privacy take center stage because personal data needs to be protected and privacy rights need to be upheld.
Data privacy also needs to be ensured as we embrace the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) with a focus on harnessing the potential and opportunities that come with it,” he says.
Baryomunsi, in a statement read for him by State Minister Joyce Ssebugwawo, said they will use the annual World Data Privacy Days to spread information about the need to protect people’s privacy.