The Federal Government has said it is on the verge of digitising all public services to harness the benefits of the digital economy and ensure adequate protection of citizens’ data.

The Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, disclosed this on Sunday during a press conference to mark Global Data Privacy Day, which has the theme “Take Control of Your Data’’.

According to him, President Bola Tinubu has given the Ministry the mandate to transform public services with technology. He said this means that a lot more of the things that the government does in public service will be digitalized.

While emphasising the importance of data protection in a digitalized economy, the minister said:

“A lot of gadgets we use today are interconnected, which means the data we are producing daily must be protected, and the people producing it too must be enlightened. A lot of the services that citizens consume in the coming months and years will also be digitalized.
“There may be dangers as we collect and share data, so there is need for us as government agencies to protect the data appropriately, we need to invest in innovative ways to protect data.’’
According to him, the Nigeria Data Protection Commission (NDPC) would be able to provide the role of protecting the citizens’ data while Galaxy Backbone would help manage the data exchange system and ensure it follows laid down regulations. The minister also said that companies that produce digital gadgets have a role in ensuring that the data of people they collect is not compromised.

Also speaking during the conference, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on ICT and Cybersecurity, Stanley Adedeji, said that the National Assembly would ensure compliance in its mode of data collection.

“In performing our constitutional duties as legislators, we collect a lot of data, and we have to make sure the mode in which we collect data is in compliance with the Data Privacy Law. “This means that we must automate the process of our interaction with MDAs and other organisations,” he said.
Adedeji further urged organisations to be compliant and not choose the part of litigation when found culpable. According to him, the data protection ecosystem is still at the primary stage of development, and every institution should be part of the process.

He added that capacity building is needed for people to get acquainted with the law of data protection, as well as having an attitudinal change on data privacy. He pledged the National Assembly’s support in terms of legislation and collaboration by amending laws that will make the NDPC more effective and transparent.

Speaking on the activities of the Commission, the National Commissioner of the NDPC, Dr. Vincent Olatunji, said the NDPC had developed a five-year Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan with five pillars in 2023. Olatunji said that within one year, they have achieved two of the three most challenging targets of the roadmap, but for the awareness part, which requires intensive capacity building.

“The commission is keen on building a globally competitive pool of Data Protection Officers (DPOs) who will be able to discharge the duties required of them under Section 332 of the Nigeria Data Protection Act (NDPA).
“We have identified at least 500,000 data controllers and data processors who need qualified DPOs to meet their obligations under the law. We cannot afford to subject this pool to compulsory foreign certifications, as this will put pressure on our local currency and defeat the aims and objectives of the Federal Government’s Executive Orders 003 and 005.
“We have concluded arrangements for the licencing of an indigenous certification body with global standards and international spread to fill the gap,’’ he said.

Data Privacy Day (DPD) was established to raise awareness and promote privacy and data protection best practices, which is currently observed in the US, Canada, Israel, Nigeria, Qatar, and 47 European countries.

Celebrated as a week in Nigeria from Jan. 28 to Feb. 4, the event is designed to join the globe to create awareness and ensure that data subjects know their rights.