Friday, January 22, 2016

Uganda Data Protection and Privacy Law Still Ambiguous

By Esther Nakkazi

Ugandan citizens’ personal data may be at risk of misuse if the Uganda Data protection and Privacy Bill (2014) to be tabled before parliament is passed in its current form.

Currently, large entities like telecommunications service providers, insurers, hospitals and even schools retain the information of millions of citizens who remain unaware of how secure their information is, especially as more of it becomes digitized.

In an effort to incorporate citizens concerns comments to the Bill were solicited from the public in 2014 but little progress was made on it over the course of 2015. According to Gloria Katuuku from the Ministry of ICT, the comments received have now been incorporated into a revised bill. 
“We brought this Bill before the public so that we get conclusive remarks. The bill has been gazetted and will be tabled in parliament, meaning at this time we shall just compile the concerns,” said Katuuku. 
She was speaking at a workshop convened by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) where Ugandan parliamentary journalists discussed data protection and privacy with reference to the bill.

CIPESA Policy Officer being interviewed by journalists
The workshop was organized in conjunction with the Uganda Parliamentary Press Association (UPPA) and aimed to create awareness among parliament journalists about clauses in the proposed law that contravene citizens’ rights, including to privacy. 

Few journalists were aware that government had drafted the law and called for robust media engagement with Members of Parliament so as to generate debate on data protection and privacy issues.

The former Chairman of parliament’s ICT Committee, Edward Baliddawa, said the data protection law should have been the basis for other cyber laws in Uganda. He added that as the country edges towards e-commerce, such as business process outsourcing, there is a need to regulate data controllers.

“This Bill is good for our safety and privacy as individuals and to become an e-commerce country,” he said. Baliddawa also called for continuous engagement with all stakeholders across the lifespan of the bill – drafting, tabling to parliament and any eventual amendments.

Although existing laws such the Electronic Signatures Act, 2011, the Computer Misuse Act, 2011, the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act 2010 and the Communications Commission Act 2013 cover aspects of data protection and privacy, they contain contradictions and potentially expose users’ information to unwarranted access and misuse by authorities. 

Lillian Nalwoga, CIPESA’s Policy Officer, said of the laws: “These laws have broad terminologies that should be amended to repeal contradictory provisions and this can be done within the Data protection and Privacy Bill, 2014 in the contexts of data users and collectors, and to prevent abuse.”

But the proposed data protection and privacy law that is meant to address privacy of citizens’ communications and data still has ambiguous terminologies, unclear definitions and arbitration issues that will negate its purpose.

According to CIPESA officials, the drafting phrase should further engage with and seek consultations with different stakeholders including civil society, the private sector, the media and academia for an extended period prior to tabling it before parliament. This would ensure that the law passed “is inclusive, accommodative and addresses the concerns raised by all the stockholders,” said Wakabi Wairagala, the head of CIPESA.

At the workshop, CIPESA officials referred journalists to various areas of concern in the draft bill including some of its ambiguous terminologies, such as Section 4 (2) which states that personal data may be collected or processed where necessary for ’national security’ or for the ‘proper performance’ of a public duty’ by a public body.

However, these words can be misinterpreted and leave room for the access to and abuse of citizens’ information.

Meanwhile, Section 7 (2) says data can be collected from another person, source or public body in certain circumstances without the consent of the owner. The length of time that the collected personal data can be retained is also not indicated.

Section 14 (1) states that the data cannot be held for a period longer than is necessary and says it will be retained for national security purposes.

Overall, the bill does not explicitly state what constitutes a ‘privacy infringement’, thereby leaving users’ data open to abuse by data collectors and processors. It also does not state the procedures for citizens to access their data. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

About 30% Uganda Students Drop Out in Primary One

By Esther Nakkazi

Back in the day, the Uganda education system and its graduates were celebrated around the world. Lately, although some still feel the quality of Uganda’s education is still good, and it still exports professionals around the world. Others feel Uganda’s education has deteriorated below desired levels.

This happened last year. I was attending the first symposium for higher education held in Uganda on 16th March 2015 and the debate on the quality of Uganda’s higher education was intense.

In a room filled with gurus at the higher education level, Professors and heads of different Universities, answers were varied; the teacher is the core, you cannot expect the best if your teacher is the worst. We do not supervise our teachers proficiently that is the problem, one professor suggested.

Uganda has quality education but its not uniform; the content may be irrelevant; we are doing assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning-it should be continuos assessment; maybe Uganda put its education assessment indicators so high. We need to redefine the performance indicators they are so high, they went on and on.

Until one stunning statistic was revealed by Vincent A. Ssembatya, the Director, Quality Assurance Makerere University.

In one of his recent research, he found that of the 1.8 million children who get into school annually in Uganda, 500,000 drop out in primary one. After a year. It was a defining moment for the higher education experts because of all of them simultaneously asked, why? Maybe not verbally but more so on their faces. Ssembatya had no answer.

One Professor, Eriabu Lugujjo, an electric engineer who spent over 30 years teaching engineering at Makerere University, and prides himself in disciplining, for never in his class did any student enter class after him, offered his understanding of the situation.

Lugujjo also the current vice Chancellor of Ndejje University, amused us all, when he narrated how he used to walk for many miles to his primary school, but that was not a problem, and he used to carry with him food, left over from dinner, for his school lunch.

He said Uganda’s curriculum has not changed but the learner has changed. Hilariously, he suggested that the children drop out because they go hungry. Others thought the kids just got bored. In primary one? How does a five year old get bored with school. Boredom! Or the parents abdicate their responsibilities.

But Karrine Sanders, Programme manager, Association of Commonwealth Universities, UK insisted that as a mother, she thought parents would only do something in the best interest of their children. I think so too.

Its important though, to research on why so many kids drop out of school so early. Ssembatya went on to say that Uganda’s higher education quality has gone down because the system has failed to link up the UNESCO ‘education for all goals’ 1 to 6.

Six internationally agreed education goals aim to meet the learning needs of all children, youth and adults by 2015.

While goal 1 looks at expanding and improving early childhood education, goal number 6 looks at improving quality education and ensuring excellence mostly at the higher level.

The two fall far apart in Uganda. The educationists concurred that if they clean up the base there will be quality at the higher level.

Joseph Oonyu, head of School of eduction, Makerere University, said the quality in the lower section would influence the quality in the higher section. But if they received bad quality students at the lower level, don’t expect miracles at the higher level.

So Uganda needs to prioritise early childhood education, which is the basis of quality for higher education.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Should Sanitary Pads for Ugandan Girls be Entirely Free?

By Esther Nakkazi

On his forth leg of the campaign trail, which took him to Lango region in Northern Uganda, candidate Yoweri Museveni also the incumbent, said if the people vote him back into power all school going girls will get free sanitary pads.

It is only the girls who are under the Universal Primary and Secondary Education (UPE/USE) programs that were started by the National Resistance Movement (NRM) that has been in power since 1986 who will get the free sanitary pads.

He explained that girls who lack pads skip school when that time of the month comes. “Girls should not have to run away from school because they are ashamed. We will get them what to use,” assured Museveni. But this is the second time that candidate Museveni has promised free sanitary pads.

Elections are due in February 2016 but if the niceties the eight candidates promise the voters come to pass, all Ugandans would indeed live in paradise thereafter.

But let us focus on this promise by candidate Museveni particularly because sanitary pads are a reproductive health commodity and access and financing of sexual and reproductive health commodities is such a big issue in Uganda.

It is true that girls' performance is lower, absenteeism and drop out rates higher in school because of this menstrual hygiene problem. 

So why not celebrate with civil society who have at last managed to put menstrual hygiene on top of the development agenda?

When I met officials from the Sexual and Reproductive Health Unit at the Ministry of Health at the monthly science café, which focussed on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for adolescents and youth sponsored by Uganda Network of AIDS Service Organisations (UNASO) I put it to them.

Olivia Kiconco from the Ministry of Health who was quick to clarify that it was her own opinion and not related to her work place expressed fears of the repercussions of giving out free things. She said she would rather they get an investor to set up a factory here so that they are cheaper.

Wilberforce Mugumya, the reproductive health coordinator at the Ministry of Health was of the view that this should be looked at more comprehensively, in terms of menstrual hygiene and dysmenorrhea to improve the girl child education.

“At the Ministry we look at the policy implications. We shall need to unpackage the President’s commitment. Doing it is a process and takes time,” said Mugumya. He reminded us that with making this statement candidate Museveni started with ‘If you vote for me….”

In my own opinion I think this is definitely a good and commendable thing to do by the government but I have my own fears for free things. What has happened to free mosquito nets?

Bed nets may be used at the front line of fighting malaria and they have proven to be effective but look at the misuse, or multiple uses if you are optimistic; from use as nets in football posts, to fishing nets, wedding veils. And this is inspite of the education and awareness attached to them.

I am imagining creatively using sanitary pads that are handed out for free for stuffing pillow cases, mattresses, using the polythene cover for making crafts or not giving them to the girls in UPE And USE schools and misappropriating them because they are expensive. Currently, sanitary pads (a pack of seven) costs 3,000 Uganda shillings or ($9).  

So I would rather a small fee is attached to them or that the government removes taxes on sanitary pads so that they are cheaper for those who do not qualify to get them for free and promotes local innovators like the manufacturers of MakaPads, which are made from papyrus and waste paper.

But also this is the second time free sanitary pads are coming up in Museveni's campaigns so we should definitely question if it will work this time round.

We discussed all this at the ninth science café organised by the Health Journalists Network in Uganda (HEJNU). 

Speakers were Primah Kwagala from CEHURD; Bakshi Asuman from REACH a Hand; Patrick Mwesigye, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum; Godfrey Walakira from Straight talk Uganda; and Olivia Kiconco and Wilberforce Mugumya from the Sexual and Reproductive Health Unit at the Ministry of Health.

They exchanged views with journalists about Post Abortion Care (PAC), gender justice, family planning, youth friendly services in health facilities, diversity in HIV, dating violence, Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in HIV and human rights issues for youth and adolescents on sexual and reproductive health. It was a good afternoon well spent!