A global ‘South’ perspective on new regulatory initiatives and challenges: Ghana’s Data Protections Act of 2012

TitleA global ‘South’ perspective on new regulatory initiatives and challenges: Ghana’s Data Protections Act of 2012
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Avle, S.
Affiliation (1st Author)University of Michigan
Section or WGLaw Section with Communication Policy and Technology Section
DateThurs 27 June
Slot CodeLAWT1a
Slot Code (Keyword)LAWT1a
Time of Session9:00-10:30
Session TitleRights of the Individual
Submission ID5728

The role of the state in regulating communications content and carriage has changed in tandem with the prevailing ideological and geopolitical currents (Mansell & Raboy, 2011), and given how easy it is for data to cross borders today, states and civil societies are taking strong regulatory stances for citizens and consumers. In fact, as the end of end of 2012, about 90 countries and jurisdictions had some form of comprehensive data protection or privacy law in both the private and public sector (Banisar, 2012), and a noteworthy proportion of these were from the ‘South’. Arguably, states in the ‘South’ face different a set of challenges from the ‘North’ when it comes to information and communication technologies (ICTs). They contend with access, affordability and infrastructure issues that those in the ‘North’ might have surpassed years ago. Some grapple with imbalances in the global information system, where for example sites like PayPal are not available for international commerce. Such challenges manifest in various ways in different countries, and research on the social, economic and legal issues related to (new) regulatory initiatives in the ‘South’, must take them into consideration even as they are taken for granted in research on the ‘North’ (Okoli & Mbarika, 2003). In particular, given that the internal environment as it relates to technology, government and cultural readiness is crucial to the successful implementation and adoption of communication policy (Bajaj & Leonard, 2004; Boateng, Molla, Heeks, & Hinson, 2011; Gibbs, Kraemer, & Dedrick, 2003; Molla & Licker, 2005; Okoli & Mbarika, 2003; Wong, 2003), we must include analysis of the prevailing structures available for policy implementation. In addition, given the current wave of globalization wherein governance and policy making is no longer the “introspective preoccupation of nation-states” (Mansell & Raboy, 2011), it is also prudent to consider geopolitical and multilateral influences as states regulate new information regimes. Ghana, one of Africa’s fastest growing economies and stable democracies, passed a Data Protections law in 2012 as part of the move to diversify the economy from being commodity base into a knowledge and information one enabled by ICTs (Boateng et al., 2011). In describing the impetus for the policy, the Minister of Communications said “Whenever you open a bank account, join a social networking website or book a flight online, you hand over vital personal information such as name, address and credit card number to an institution or service provider without knowing what it would be used for”. The law expects ‘data processors’ to inform consumers “what their data would be used for and how it would be secured” (GNA, 2012). With estimates of between 25-25% of the Ghanaian population being unbanked and only about 10-15% having Internet access in what is still a largely cash-based economy, such rhetoric raises interesting questions about the country’s readiness for a new regulatory regime within the context of information reliance in a resource poor environment. Arguably, for the law to be effective, it must be consistent with the distinctive information and knowledge systems within the country (Mansell, Steinmueller, & Montalvo, 1999). As such, this paper addresses two main questions 1) what is the discourse around the passing of the Act, and 2) what are the challenges and opportunities for its implementation? Assessing the rhetoric around the passing of the act allows us to locate the contexts of influence, the policy text production and the context of practice in which the policy is subject to interpretation (Lall, 2007). This is theoretically drawn from the notion of policy cycles (Bowe, Ball, & Gold, 1992) and relies on textual analysis of policy documents and press coverage, as well as interviews with policy makers and other stakeholders. In addition, the paper draws from aspects of the Culture, Policy and Technology (CPT) framework (Bajaj & Leonard, 2004) as grounding for the review of the country’s social, legal and technical structures in order to assess the prevailing challenges and opportunities for its implementation. Altogether, the paper presents a contextualized case from the global ‘South’ on issues related to (new) regulatory initiatives worldwide on privacy and data protection. References Bajaj, A., & Leonard, L. N. K. (2004). 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