June 21, 2023

Data protection Act: Nigeria may generate over N16bn in data businesses

South East Development Commision

*New law restores country’s market confidence

*May triple contribution to economy

*Data manipulators, loan sharks’ll have raw deal

 By Juliet Umeh, edited by Prince Osuagwu

Last week, President Bola Tinubu, signed the Nigeria Data Protection Bill, 2023 into law. The new law has obviously excited data and technology experts who now feel Nigeria’s economy is about to witness investment boom like other countries who have passed a similar law.

The new law establishes the Nigeria Data Protection Commission and replaces the NDPB established by former President Buhari in February 2022.

The Commission will be led by a National Commissioner responsible for regulating the processing of personal information.

Since the new law came into effect positive predictions have trailed it, all pointing to the fact it could triple the fortunes of the industry which today stands at above N5.5 billion.

If the calculations are correct, it means that the industry could be valued at over N16 billion in no distant time.

Just recently, former Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Pantami says the market value of Nigeria’s Data Protection Sector in the country was N 5.5 billion and predicted this figure could triple if data protection law came into effect.

Part of the reasons Pantami advanced for his prediction was that the law will give foreign investors the confidence to do business in Nigeria.

He said: “The Data Protection Bureau created many jobs in 2022. The value of the sector today is around 5.5 billion naira and could triple if a full law come into effect. It is a global best practice to have a data protection law in place; otherwise you will find it difficult to attract interventions that are of benefit to your country.  Secondly, even potential investors today may ask questions whether you have data protection laws in your country or not; if you don’t have any data protection law in place, they will feel uncomfortable coming to invest in that country, because today, data is critical” he added.

Meanwhile, Pantami is not alone in this view. All the experts who spoke to Hitech saw the move as a welcome development going by its potential market confidence.

 How the economy will benefit

 A tech lawyer and Managing Partner at Nubia Capital, a venture capital investor in tech companies, Mr. Davidson Oturu said: “With the growth of tech enabled businesses using data to drive financial technology, fintech, e-commerce and other online services, the laws will be crucial for market confidence.

“For instance, we saw a situation where following Kenya’s introduction of its Data Protection Act, Amazon Web Services, AWS, announced new investments in the country, including establishing part of its data cloud infrastructure in Nairobi.

“There were indications that the data protection law was what spurred AWS to invest in the country as it had been waiting for about seven years for the passage of such a law that would boost its confidence.

“The law can also assure the citizens and investors that the government will not exploit their personal information for unauthorised profiling, spying, or other forms of discrimination.

“With market confidence, will come trust, especially as some consumers may have lost faith in the ability of the government to protect their data following the recent surge of privacy infractions and data breaches by large internet companies and loan apps.

“Therefore, consumers may be more willing to participate in online activities like e-commerce, digital transactions, and online services when they have confidence that their data will be protected, which can help the economy,” Oturu stated.

 Loan sharks, data manipulators up for raw deal

Speaking on the provisions of the law, Oturu said: “Some of the provisions of the law include the fact that before organisations transfer personal data, they have to comply with the certain provisions or risk sanctions.

“In terms of penalties, there are fines introduced and where someone’s personal data is infringed and used for profiting, the aggrieved person can get part of the profits made from the infringement.

“This would definitely work in situations where we see some of these loan sharks and other players who manipulate data and carrying out unethical activities.

“Furthermore, at a time when artificial intelligence, AI, is on the rise with its potential for data manipulation and deep fakes, having strong data protection laws will be crucial for responsible AI development and deployment as it will uphold ethical principles, preserves privacy, ensures compliance with regulations, fosters trust, and mitigates risks associated with data use,” he added

Also reacting, Chief Revenue and Data Officer, Enterprise Business Information systems, Mr Wale Awosokanre, said data is power and can always be monetized when properly managed and propagated. Awosokanre said: “This will help the government bring sanity to data management allowing for control in the use, which will impact positively the economy of Nigeria.

“Till date, data is sometime used to the disadvantage of the owner, which creates negative view of Nigeria and impacting on investments coming into the country; if we are able to reverse this, then positive investments can be attracted into Nigeria.”

 Implementation Concerns

However,  Awosokanre was worried about the implementation of the law noting that without adequate implementation, any law is just a piece of paper.

He raised some questions, including how to ensure compliance? What systems or trackers would be put in place to ensure adherence to the law and the competence in management of the Data commission.

 Massive education and awareness

Meanwhile, the Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative, Mr Gbenga Sesan, wants the Nigeria Data Protection Commission as a matter of urgency to begin massive education and awareness for citizens and data handlers so that everyone knows their rights and responsibilities.

He said: “One of the challenges that this new law has immediately addressed is the need for an independent data protection regulatory agency because it is the right way to do it and also because all violators must be checked, including government agencies themselves.

“The independence will not come easy though, the Commission must defend it especially considering the contradictory Section 55 of the Act that gives the Minister power to dictate to the independent Commission,” Sesan advised.