President Mnangagwa gave his State Of the Nation Address yesterday and though there wasn’t much mentioned about tech and the ICT industry one of the more interesting bits came when the President talked about cybersecurity.
Mnangagwa hinted at the work that was being done on a total of three separate bills:
To mitigate the security risks and cyber-crime related threats, a Cyber Crime and Cyber Security Bill shall be tabled before this Parliament. This shall also be supported by the introduction of the Data Protection Bill as well as the Electronic Transactions and Electronic Commercial Bill.
The prospect of a Data Protection Bill has been in the works for a while now. Back in 2016, a draft was actually passed 2016 but that never got ratified. Similarly, Electronic transactions bill was drafted in 2015 have been drafted before, with no implementation so it will be interesting to see if the government follows through on these bills.
It’s great that the president is promising that these issues will be addressed but there are also concerns. Every time we hear of any cyber bill or the government trying to make some regulations in relation to how we use the internet, we are slightly alarmed. I mean if you have any experience living in or country you would kinda get where I’m coming from. Freedom of speech is not a big thing this side, and the internet is a huge enabler of these freedoms. Anyway, paranoia aside what are some of the things the government should be careful of when drafting this bill?
Out of context laws
Considering that the bills that have been promised were drafted as far back as 2015 there is a real risk that some of the things proposed in those drafts will not be relevant in the present day. Since then we’ve seen Facebook have an impact on national elections, “fake news” has become a huge issue and the drafts from years ago may not adequately address those issues.
Further delays in ratification of laws
There have already been delays in ratifying the drafts that were made years ago. The bigger problem, however, is that technology moves at a rapid pace and if drafts take 2-3 years to ratify, then you may find yourself ratifying bills that are already outdated.
A change of culture is needed
I’m assuming the previous drafts slipped through the cracks and became irrelevant as the parliament addresses more pressing issues but I think that’s an underestimation of the importance of these laws. Most people have taken a lax approach when it comes to the importance of staying safe and having good data collection practices because “these things don’t affect us.” I think the problem with that approach is that when things do begin affecting you, you are not ready. A great example we should consider is how card cloning crimes have had a devastating effect because no one was anticipating the day debit cards would become mainstream and at the time when banks were implementing the technologies they did the bare minimum because again, “these things don’t affect us.”
Oh, one last thing…
The president also said:
The development and modernisation of our roads, railways, airports, energy and ICT infrastructure will be accelerated. This must however be in sync with our domestic realities as well as the on-going quest by SADC and Africa as a whole, for enhanced connectivity and integrated infrastructure.
This is one of those vague statements that is hard to analyse due to the lack of context surrounding it but those are the two tech-related statements we got in the SONA.