Time for a Digital Authority

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Time for a Digital Authority
Kofi Anokye Owusu-Darko(Dr)

The next world is the e-world and every country is positioning herself to either have a first mover advantage or take advantage of what has already been done by others so as not to re-invent the wheel. The next e-generation may not need the traditional physical brick and mortar schools, courts, offices, hospitals and as we have now since everything will be prefixed with “e”. Countries that do not start the change management process of moving their people, government, private sector business and economies “on-line” would be doing a big disservice to their next generation of e-citizens.

It is heartwarming to see the Vice-President trying to champion the actualization of the existing e-government agenda in Ghana. However, there is the need to institutionalize this process of digital transformation through a body. This body will take a holistic approach with a blueprint of where we want e-Ghana to be in may be 20 years instead of a piece meal approach with no known specific destination for entrepreneurs, businesses and citizens to also plan to plug in. This is why we need a Digital Authority.

LOOKING AT THE BIG PICTURE

Ghana’s main e-government agenda is supposed to revolve around six strategic goals with a separate comprehensive e-government strategic document.  This policy which was based on 14 pillars was intended to develop, deploy and exploit ICT for administration and service delivery within government and the economy.

There have also been the e-Ghana project and the e-GIF initiative. The e-Ghana project had three components intended to assist government in its ICT development and the e-GIF initiative was meant to establish amongst other policies, technical standards and guidelines in achieving interoperability among government organisations. The realization of this agenda has been ongoing with the development of ICT policy statements by various governments, with no known or published timelines for government institutions to digitalize their operations and allowing the private sector to plan to plug in completing the process.

Considering the infrastructure, legal, human capital, technical and technology development, educational capacity and services needed for this digital transformation, there seem to be no known value chain “end-to-end” digitalization strategic action plan.

Where is the “Dream”? How do we get there? What regulation and protection is required? How do we envisage our education to be like? How do we envisage our healthcare to be like? How do we see the interaction between government business and the citizens? and so on. This is where a Digital Authority backed by law to galvanise both the government and private sector thoughts as stakeholders for a common purpose, comes in. Leaving this to government manifestos and politicians who seldom continue with what previous governments have done will be disastrous for the next e-citizens.

THE FUTURE OF DRONES FOR SHOPPING

Now that we have digital addresses in Ghana, I foresee a future where owning a drone will be like owning a car. There will be private drones and commercial ones. No need to physically go shopping. Those with private ones will send them to the fulfillment centers to collect groceries, medicines, fast food and other purchases which have been electronically paid for. Those who cannot afford will use the commercial ones to deliver or collect their purchases. The commercial ones will either be like taxis you can hire as ‘dropping’ or you share with others who have made orders in your locality.

There will be the ‘trotro’ drones as well, for the ordinary citizen who cannot afford the taxi. There will be different models like we have Mercedes and Toyota, having different functionalities. Basically drones will be used to deliver and collect parcels.

This will lead to skill and business model disruption in its present form but create new ones. The mechanic or ‘fitters’ will need to learn robotics; our schools will need to teach robotics, it’s repairs and maintenance; Aviation Authority will need to find a way to regulate the air space including drone piloting license; the police must have police drones to fight drone crimes or illegal activity; private security drones will be hired, hovering and watching over our homes instead of human beings. Road traffic will move to air traffic and accidents. Houses will now have to have “dronepads” for landing sites.

Anyway, robots have started delivering orders from shops to buyers in other countries. Of course with the potholes in Ghana I doubt how can we even copy. Our best alternative is the airspace but I guess my dream is far-fetched. Ghana fold your arms because which developed country is doing it. In any case, this like any other “e-dream” is for a Digital Authority, not a Data Protection Commission or a Cybersecurity Authority.

PRESENT FRAGMENTED REGULATORY APROACH

The digital transformation cannot exist without laws and institutions to govern. That is why we need to bring order and make sure we all fall in line hence the passing of various laws such as:

  • The Electronic Transactions Act, 2008 (Act 772), which has amongst others the following objectives of facilitating electronic communications and related transactions in the public interest; promoting legal certainty and confidence in electronic communications and transactions; promoting e-government services and electronic communications and transactions with public and private bodies, institutions and citizens.

The Act is also aimed at developing a safe, secure and effective environment for the consumer, business and the Government to conduct and use electronic transactions.

  • The Data Protection Act, 2012 (Act 843), that established The Data Protection Commission (DPC) as an independent statutory body established to protect the privacy of the individual and personal data by regulating the processing of personal information.
  • The Cybersecurity Act, 2020 (Act 1038), establishing a Cyber Security Authority (CSA) as a body corporate to amongst others regulate cybersecurity activities in the country; promote the development of cybersecurity in the country to ensure a secured and resilient digital ecosystem.

The vision of the Data Protection Commission (DPC) is to “protect the Privacy of the Individual and personal data by regulating people, processes and technology” and the vision of that of the Cyber Security Authority (CSA) is “a Secured and Resilient Digital Ghana” with a mission To Build a Resilient Digital Ecosystem, Secure Digital Infrastructure, Develop National Capacity, Deter Cybercrime, and Strengthen Cybersecurity Cooperation”.

The various Acts with different Regulators involved in regulating aspects of the digital ecosystem may be duplicating efforts using same or similar methodologies, dealing with same data subjects and information but not sharing resources, including human resource and information effectively and efficiently.

There is an opportunity to avoid the fragmented regulation of the financial services industry where instead of having an efficient model of having them under a single umbrella to take care of all financial services we have the National Pensions Regulatory Authority for pensions, Security and Exchange Commission for the securities market, Bank of Ghana for the business of banking and National Insurance Commission for insurance business and at times all having a single regulatee who gets “burnt-out” with prudential returns and various inspections all year round by the Regulators, all using about the same information.

We should not start creating various regulatory bodies for the various aspects of the digital ecosystem but have a single “birds eye” view of e-Ghana as to where we want to go and how we intend to as fast as possible get there but safely. We need to avoid a regulatory “turf war” in the future and have a single Regulator such as a Digital Authority.

THE DIGITAL AUTHORITY

The digital ecosystem involves aspects relating to transactions and commerce, information security, data protection, legal as well as the technical and technological aspect. The governance and management must also be considered. Players include suppliers (both government and private), customers, trading partners and third-party data service providers. Each aspect requires some form of regulation but they are all interconnected and revolve around protection of the consumer as well as facilitation of the development of that space.

There is the need for a culture change by way of a new way of digital life and change management methodologies will have to be employed. It is not all about the security aspect or data protections hence the Cybersecurity Authority and Data Protection Commission by their mandate are not cut to create future digital Ghana especially the development of the commercial, transactional and business aspects.

A Digital Authority will therefore consider in a holistic manner all the various areas to lead the digitization, digitalization and digital transformation of the Ghanaian economy especial the e-government business agenda.  Once e-government is achieved, private sector by way of businesses as suppliers and the citizens as buyers will plug into the ecosystem.

The digital platform, an environment the youth are comfortable with, is a big opportunity for young entrepreneurs with little or no initial capital to create a market and reach out to potential clients.

For their safety, Plug and Play secured websites with payments systems, e-marketing and especially e-taxation tools already embedded may have to be deliberately developed to not only protect them and reduce the cost of having their own businesses as “start-ups” but nudge them to go online with an opportunity to expand the tax net to SME’s. This is definitely not and cannot be the mandate of either the Cybersecurity Authority or the Data Protection Commission but a Digital Authority.

This Digital Authority can then have various divisions to take care of cybersecurity, data protections, consumer protection, business development and others that may be needed to not only regulate but champion the e-Ghana agenda.  The Digital Authority’s main mandate will be to safely move the Ghanaian economy on-line and lead the digital transformation agenda.

CONCLUSION

The future is the digital world and Ghana as a country must digitize her economy to be able to plug in. The present traditional economy in terms of job creation from the government side is “choked” and the youth being encouraged to be entrepreneurs. The only platform they understand is the digital platform hence there is the need to nudge them to be e-entrepreneurs and be protected.

The regulation of the process of the digital economy transformation must be legally institutionalized through a Digital Authority. This Digital Authority will be responsible for the big picture and the e-dream. We must harness the skill set available to not only consider the safety aspects as currently mandated to the Cybersecurity Authority and the Data Protection Commission, but the business and development aspects as well.

The author  is a Chartered Banker, holds an EMBA (IT Management) an LLB and LLM (IT & Telecommunication) (contact: [email protected] visit : Kofianokye.blogspot.com; )

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