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HomeTechnologyPrivacy matters: Top 10 tips for African organisations to safeguard data  

Privacy matters: Top 10 tips for African organisations to safeguard data  

By Mark Townsend

We have all seen the warnings about clicking on suspicious links and sharing sensitive information with people we don’t know. But data privacy extends much further than that.

In recent years, data privacy breaches have had significant repercussions on organisations
worldwide. For instance, in 2020, a leading global hospitality group experienced a data breach affecting 5.2 million guest records, including sensitive information like passport data and contact details.

The group faced a significant fine for GDPR non-compliance, highlighting the consequences
of failing to safeguard data. It’s happening on the African continent as well.

Zambia Central Bank’s computer system was breached by hackers in 2022, which affected systems such as the bureau de change monitoring system and the website, resulting in disruptions to the bank’s IT applications.

Such breaches are a critical concern for individuals and businesses globally, and more so for those operating in Africa, where the digital economy is rapidly evolving.

In Zambia, for instance, the Data Protection Act of 2021 was introduced to protect personal data by regulating its collection, use, transmission, storage, and processing. It also established the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, and outlined the responsibilities of various custodians of data, along with the rights of data subjects. While implementing the Act has posed some challenges, Zambian business can proactively take measures to ensure the privacy and security of their own data.

Mark Townsend, CEO of Liquid Intelligent Technologies Zambia, unpacks ten ways to help
organisations proactively improve and manage their data privacy practices:

1. Understand the concept of data privacy and its importance.
Data privacy refers to the protection of personal information from unauthorised access, use, or disclosure. By defining data privacy and ensuring that all stakeholders understand its importance, organisations can create a framework for protecting sensitive information.

2. Designate a Data Protection Officer to oversee data protection efforts.
This senior-level person should have expertise in data protection laws and regulations and
oversee compliance within the organisation. This role is crucial in ensuring that data privacy is prioritised and implemented effectively.

3. Provide regular training to employees on data protection best practices.
Ongoing training helps create a culture of data privacy within the organisation. This includes understanding data protection laws, recognising potential threats, and knowing how to respond to data breaches. Employees also need to be aware of the risks involved with the use of artificial intelligence tools in terms of the information about your organisation that is (potentially) shared and (definitely) stored.

4. Implement robust cyber security measures to protect against cyber threats.
This includes using encryption, firewalls, and anti-virus software. Security protocols should
be regularly updated to mitigate any emerging threats. Organisations like Liquid Zambia can assist businesses with implementing the appropriate solutions.

5. Implement a data classification system to categorise data based on its sensitivity.
Classifying data, for instance as ‘public’, ‘internal-only’, ‘confidential’, and ‘restricted’ or
similar, helps in controlling access to sensitive information and ensures that appropriate
security measures are in place for each data category.

6. Have international agreements in place for cross-border data transfer.
Establish internationally required agreements, such as intergroup and transfer agreements,
for lawful data transfers outside your country of operation. These agreements ensure that
data is transferred securely and complies with data protection regulations.

7. Always be mindful of retaining customer trust. Build customer trust by being transparent about data collection and usage practices. Clearly communicate to your customers how their information is being used and stored and implement privacy policies that outline your organisation’s commitment to data privacy.

8. Always ensure meticulous regulatory compliance.
Ensure compliance with data protection laws and regulations relevant to your jurisdiction.
Stay updated with changes in legislation and implement necessary changes to remain
compliant.

9. Minimise the amount of data collected.
Collect only the necessary data for your operations. Avoid collecting excessive or
unnecessary information that could increase the risk of data breaches. Implement data
minimisation practices to reduce the amount of personal data stored.

10. Foster a top-down approach.
Ensure active involvement and support from senior management in data protection efforts.
Leadership should drive the agenda for data protection compliance and ensure that
adequate resources are allocated to data privacy initiatives.
By proactively addressing and managing the security of data, organisations can strengthen
their data privacy practices, mitigate risks, and build trust with customers and stakeholders.

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