Kenya passes data protection law crucial for tech investments

NAIROBI, Nov 8 (Reuters) – Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta%20Kenyatta&redirect=yes">
on Friday approved a data protection law which complies with
European Union legal standards as it looks to bolster investment
in its information technology sector.

The East African nation has attracted foreign firms with
innovations such as Safaricom’s M-Pesa mobile money services,
but the lack of safeguards in handling personal data has held it
back from its full potential, officials say.

“Kenya has joined the global community in terms of data
protection standards,” Joe Mucheru, minister for information,
technology and communication, told Reuters.

The new law sets out restrictions on how personally
identifiable data obtained by firms and government entities can
be handled, stored and shared, the government said.

Mucheru said it complies with the EU’s General Data
Protection Regulation which came into effect in May 2018 and
said an independent office will investigate data infringements.

Companies such as Kenya Airways KQNA.NR and tourist hotels
will have to comply when handling personal data from clients,
Mucheru said, as will phone-based lenders such as Safaricom,
which amasses personal data through services offered jointly
with local banks.

Amazon Web Services, part of the Amazon group AMZN.O , said
on Friday it will set up part of its cloud infrastructure in
Kenya, adding it was encouraged by the new law. It did not give
a value for the new investment.

Teresa Carlson, vice president of Amazon Web Services, said
the new law paves the way for the company’s investment in
Nairobi, according to a government news release.

Those violating the law face a maximum fine of 3 million
shillings ($29,283) or two years in jail, a copy of the law
seen by Reuters showed.

“It will come down to implementation and enforcement but, we
have been waiting on this for seven years so it is a start,”
said Nanjira Sambuli, a senior policy manager at the World Wide
Web Foundation, a web access advocacy group.

A lack of data protection legislation has also hampered the
government’s efforts to digitise identity records for citizens.

The registration, which the government said would boost its
provision of services, suffered a setback this year when the
exercise was challenged in court.

“The lack of a data privacy law has been an enormous lacuna
in Kenya’s digital rights landscape,” said Nanjala Nyabola,
author of a book on information technology and democracy in
($1 = 102.4500 Kenyan shillings)

Associated Links

  • AWS
  • Safaricom
  • Kenya Airways
  • ThomsonReuters
  • World WidenWeb Foundation
  • Kikuyu people
  • Jomo Kenyatta
  • Kenya
  • Uhuru Kenyatta
  • Nairobi
  • Uhuru
  • Jacob Kaimenyi
  • James Wainaina Macharia