Protect and Economise data locally – GIPSA conference

The Ghana Internet Conference 2021 which was speard headed by Ghana Internet Service Prividers Association (GIPSA) has been a success. It saw in attendance key people in the telecommunication and data industry who emphasised on how imperative it is for Ghana to safeguard its own data space in order to leverage its predictability for economic growth.

The maiden edition of this even was organised back in 2019 and has seen two more succession, with this year’s on the theme: Ghana’s Data Space. It was hosted by the Academic City University College.

The president of GIPSA, Ing Richard Densu, addressed the crowd present saying there has been a surge in the use of internet for socialisation and business transaction and this has conditioned the need for in-depth understanding of data space and how it can be protected from third party access. He added that, individuals averagely spend about 2hours and 20minutes daily surfing the net. This, he said, represents millions of data being shared between people using the internet. He further added that with the right setups, Ghana can equally tap into its data space, firstly by protecting it against external access then find a way to maximize it for economic growth.

The Chief Executive Officer of Afrifanom, Nana Osei Kwasi-Afrifa also delivered his speech making known the value of data in today’s technological world. He added that people who have understood the power of mining data have made fortunes overnight as a result of this knowledge. He stated that, the same case however cannot be said for Ghanaians since the country lacks that level of knowledge in ICT for our firms to undertake these projects and this continues to propagate against the growth and capacity development of our local industry.

“The biggest government contracts on tech development are seeded to foreign brands and sadly, of the 20 plus banks in Ghana, none is using a bank software system developed by a Ghanaian”, Nana Afrifa said. He added that, the advocacy from several local tech companies led government to rethink its position on local competencies and owing to that, today several local companies are efficiently producing great results and have developed technological software for projects like the Ghana School Placement system, Mobile Money Interoperability, Ghana Card Registration and Ghana Post GPS. He further called for more support for local technology industries, highlighting that “it is impossible to protect the data we generate if we do not have a stake in where and how it is stored”.

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The speaker for the function cited how, technological power play between the two big countries; China and the US has led to the absence of Hauwei from the google platform. He advised that this should serve as foundational guide for the reconfiguration of our data protection policy for it to be locally sovereign. He concluded saying, a lot must be done to reduce the cost of data hosting as it is a worrying situation for tech businesses.

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Other panellists present, including Amerley Ampofo; Advocate – Data as a Force For Good, Ing. Alfred Gaise, Chief Manager for Regulatory – National Communication Authority, Ing Dr. Keneth Ashigbe; CEO – Ghana Chamber of Telecommunication and Dr Patrick Adonoo; Director of Regulatory and Compliance – Data Protection Commission shared their thoughts as well.

Dr. Ken Ashigbe re-emphasized that, personal data, which is the largest and also the most valuable data and needs to be protected. He added, that as it stands, the Ghanaian way of protecting our data system is not top notch since we have not had a full grit of what data can do and how to protect it. He believes Ghana’s subscription to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA)is a opportunity for data not only to be protected and localized but also how it should be maximized to penetrate the multinational businesses borders.He stressed that the decision to localize data should not be interpreted as to have data stagnant in our country, but to use it for business developments even outside the shores of the country.

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Madam Amerley Ampofo also added that the cultivation of digital information for our economic growth is equally as important to the conversation on privacy. In her opinion, a lot of offline data activities go on even without the use of the internet, stressing that it is time for the country to start investing in digital platforms to ensure that our data records are localized and protected in order for us to think of how we can economise it. “We all saw the panic that engulfed the country when WhatsApp shutdown for some few hours. That should be a concern to be worried about. Hence, we must begin to patronize social apps developed by our own Tech enthusiasts and break the monopoly enjoined by the social platforms like Whatsapp and twitter, that are foreign own”.

Ing. Alfred Gaise said he had also observed that, there are not enough regulations to give security to how the data space is protected. “As we ensure our data is protected, we need to look at the details in our laws that can be revised to ensure that there is sufficient regulation to ensure privacy”, Mr Gaise said.

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Dr. Patrick Adonoo stated that if Ghana wishes to compete its technological development to that of the Asian tigers of the world, firstly it must know that data protection and localization is an integral step towards this vision rather than a passive one.

Participants were advised to prioritize the need to safeguard their personal data, rather than leave it only in the hands of government and its allied agencies. They also advised against the use of software that have the implication of prowling on the personal data of people and compromising their personal security.

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