(Freetown, Monday 11th October 2021) – The National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA) has commenced its Nationwide Stakeholder Consultative Meeting on the proposed Data Protection Law and Regulation in the Western Area at the New Brookfields Hotel, Jomo Kenyatta Road, Freetown.
The meeting is a continuation of the many meetings held with stakeholders to elicit participants opinion and/or position with regards the drafting of the Data Protection Policy, Bill and Regulations.
In his opening remarks, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who doubles as the chairman of the meeting, Mohamed Sheik Kargbo thanked the NCRA for undertaking such a laudable project in making sure that citizens data is being protected and managed well.
“I want to thank the NCRA for bringing us together, to consult with us so that we can enrich this document,” he said.
He noted that their presence at the meeting was as a result of an ongoing process which has to do with stakeholders’ consultation to perfect both the Policy, Bill and Regulation.
He said that the NCRA as one of the government institutions that is charged with the responsibility of not only generating data but also stored and disposed such data, has taken the lead in ensuring that we have data protection policy and bill that will guide institutions especially the public and private sector in term of data sharing.
The Deputy Director of Communication, Ministry of Information and Communications, James Kanja Cobba thanked the NCRA DG and the Minister of Internal Affairs for their coordinated efforts in bringing us all here this far. He said that the stakeholders consultative meeting is an opportunity that they may not have a second chance to lay hands on, he therefore encouraged all and sundry to make valuable contributions to the process. He noted that today’s meeting was as a result of the efforts of all stakeholders involved in putting together an instrument that will determine how the personal data of residents of this country can be collected, processed and transferred. He added that the responsible use of personal data has become a critical discuss around the digital stage and that the way and manner in which such data should be collected, and used required some sort of responsibility.
He disclosed that discussions on having a data protection law in Sierra Leone has been going on even before the passing of the Cyber Crime Bill in Parliament.
In her submission, the UNDP Governance Team Leader, Kadi J. Peters stated that prior to 2017, Sierra Leone was faced with the challenge of holistic data that addresses national development process, but with the gradual improvement in the establishment of an integrated Civil Register, the country is sure of having a reliable and credible data on the population of Sierra Leone. She added that Data Protection regulations ensure the security of the individual’s personal data and regulate the usage, collection and transfer of such data.
In his statement the Director General of the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA), Mohamed Mubashir MASSAQUOI expressed his thanks and appreciation to all stakeholders present for turning up to participate in the Western Area session of Regional Consultations geared towards developing a Data Protection Policy, Bill and Regulation. He noted that today’s meeting was the first of five Regional Consultations, with the other 4 taking place in Bo, Kenema, Makeni and Port Loko over the next few days.
“It is my prayer and I am sure the prayer of every well-meaning Sierra Leonean and friend of Sierra Leone that the consultations today and those in the regions will be productive,” the DG said.
Mr. MASSAQUOI further mentioned that the development of a Data Protection Policy, Bill and Regulation has been an interesting one and as they embark on its next step, it is fitting that stakeholders take a step back to see how far they have come.
The DG said that Sierra Leone like other countries in Africa is striving towards instituting a legal mechanism that guarantees the protection of personal data of its people both citizens and foreign residents, noting that the need for data protection law in Sierra Leone has gained momentum among all sectors of Government and our Development Partners as well as other foreign residents and missions whose concern for the privacy and security of their personal data remains strong.
He added that with guidance and leadership of the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Information and Communications, the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA), a lead Collector and Custodian of huge personal data, has been working with a number of MDAs and Development Partners to have a law that guides and regulates Institutions involved in data collection, storage, usage and sharing which is a fundamental right of everyone.
The DG informed stakeholders that Cabinet at its business sitting in June this year, further noted the sustained global drive to halt cyber related crimes and data protection gaps coupled with increasing international benchmarks for data protection. “As a Government, we are aware of very sound data protection laws and Conventions such as the African Union Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection known as the Malabo Convention of 2014 that are useful references for our ongoing move to have a law on data protection law in Sierra Leone. This is why we are working tirelessly to make sure “the absence of specific legal rules that protect consumers, intellectual property rights, personal data and information systems” is addressed expeditiously, Mr. MASSAQUOI mentioned.
He announced that the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone is very much eager and committed to having a document – Data Protection law that protects the rights of its citizens.
“His Excellency, the President Dr. Julius Maada Bio treats this with serious concern which is why he has made the development of Data Protection Law a priority for his government,” he added.
The DG encouraged all stakeholders present to make valuable inputs to the drafts documents that will reflect the interest of the people.
“As we make progress towards this direction, we are pleased to report that today, this assemblage of critical minds will peruse the draft documents namely Data Protection Bill, Data Protection Policy and Regulation for their valuable inputs. You have the challenge to make the draft documents perfect reflecting the interest of our people, other residents and our environment. We have made conscious effort to consult widely Laws and Conventions of other countries and Continent with very good Data Protection Legislation in place and now have the responsibility to domesticate it to suit our common purpose,” he said.
The DG stated that Section 41 of the NCR Act makes it clear that the Integrated National Civil Registration System is the basic information system in Sierra Leone in respect of personal data of individuals and that the NCRA shall provide personal data to other Government information systems on the basis of the Integrated National Civil Registration System and also receive data from them. He added that the personal registration data which is provided by the Integrated National Civil Registration System is the primary source of authoritative information as against other information systems providing administrative services to the population.
Mr. MASSAQUOI mentioned that the envisaged Data Protection Law will seek to ensure the security and privacy of individuals’ personal data and regulate Institutions in the collection, usage, transfer, and disclosure of the same. He mentioned that the Law will guarantee the provision of access to the data of the individuals with accountability measures to prevent unauthorized and irresponsible processing of personal data covering all those involved in the collection, processing, storage, transfer and any form of manipulation of personal or corporate data; to ensure trust, privacy and integrity. No doubt that the Law will be a critical milestone to guarantee peoples fundamental rights in the digital era.
The DG ended by acknowledging with immense gratitude the financial contribution of the UNDP, Irish Aid and Government of Sierra Leone in the development of the draft documents and to have the legislation in place. He said that the UNDP and Irish Aid have provided resources to support the process, engage the services of two renowned and competent Legal Consultants in the persons of Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai and Augustine S. Marrah to work on these documents through Parliamentary ratification. He disclosed that an International Legal Expert is also expected soon to join the team with support from the UNDP and the Irish Aid.
Mr. MASSAQUOI said that the individual and collective competencies and experiences of these consultants will be harnessed to make our Data Protection Law in Sierra Leone a resounding one that meets international standards.
“The support of these two Institutions towards a key priority of Government has been spectacular, predictable and focused with dedicated Professional staff assigned to work with the NCRA and all MDAs on this very important subject,” he noted.
In his Keynote address, the Minister of Internal Affairs, David Panda Noah commended the NCRA and stakeholders involved in the process of having a data protection policy in Sierra Leone. He said that people use our personal data for many things and that in this era of unprecedented growth of usage of digitized personal data around the world, the need to protect human beings cannot be overemphasized. He added that as data is becoming more valuable so also are skills and opportunities for retrieving different types of personal data involving extremely fast and this greatly exposes the individual to an authorized use of their personal information. He said that the purpose of personal data protection is not just the individual’s data but also to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual that is related to the data.
The Minister said that Sierra Leone is a signatory to a number of international treaties which guarantee the protection and privacy of individuals. He added that today’s program was geared towards achieving a data protection Act and established a data protection policy and regulation for managing data on the population of Sierra Leone.
The Minister stated that in Sierra Leone the push for E-governance in the New Direction and focused on Cyber Security and digital platform in public administration has made data protection an important and essential necessity of system building.
David Panda Noah announced that the government of Sierra is committed to and values the privacy and protection of personal data of individuals, as evident in the establishment of the NCRA which manages personal data of individuals. The Honorable Minister officially launched the consultative session in the Western Area.
“Section 25 of the NCR Act of 2016 which establishes the Authority has a duty to provide information in relation to personal data to several MDAs,” the Minister said.
Presentations on the proposed Data Protection Law and Regulations were made by the legal consultants, Augustine Marrah and Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai.
The session was climaxed by presentations of group work by participants on the said subject.
In attendance were; the Ministry of Information and Communications, Ministry of Internal Affairs, NEC, Start-SL, ONS, ROKEL Commercial Bank, HRMO, BSL, UNDP, World Bank among others including Civil Society Organizations the Media and other senior management staff of NCRA.