A bill before federal legislators will make institutions liable for mismanaging personal data they collect, with their leaders facing a criminal offence punishable by up to 25 years imprisonment.
A Project Office under the Prime Minister’s Office has signed deals with over half a dozen financial institutions and 30 public agencies to speed up the national identification registration programme. It has availed its database to these institutions, which conduct registration, after reaching an agreement with Tech5, a tech company headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The tech company agreed to make an open source platform available and supply its technologies for face, fingerprint, and iris biometric identification free of charge.
Legislators apportioned 600 million Br for five projects implemented by the Ministry of Information & Communications Technology, including developing a national database and disaster recovery data centre.
The Council of Ministers approved the bill governing national ID last week before sending it to Parliament for ratification. Federal legislators are expected to vote on the draft proclamation next month. The bill proposes that the central database storing primary data and biometric information should be inside the country.
Over a dozen firms are vying to tie a five million Birr consulting contract drafting legal frameworks and guidelines for the national ID programme. The prospective firm will be expected to conduct an impact assessment on the prevailing personal data protection practices. Floated by the Ministry, the bid closed last week.
According to Huria Ali, a state minister for Information & Communications Technology, financial and technical evaluations will take one month to complete. Officials plan to announce the selected company after Parliament passes the bill. The project is part of the Ethiopia Digital Foundations Project, financed by the World Bank, with 200 million dollars in credit.
The bill tabled to lawmakers grants the executive body the mandate to establish the Ethiopian Digital Identity Service. Although a proclamation legislated a decade ago paved the way for establishing such an Agency to oversee the programme’s implementation, it is yet to be set up. Instead, the programme is executed under a project office run by Yodahe Araya, former principal technical advisor to the Prime Minister. Established last year, the project office began issuing electronic IDs eight months ago. It is tasked with registering 70 million citizens by the end of 2025.
“The government is yet to decide whether to incorporate the activities of the office under the Agency,” said Dilnesa Israel, legal advisor at the Prime Minister’s Office. “Until then, the project will stay under the office.”
The draft proclamation aspires to establish the Agency as a for-profit entity.
“The plan is to generate revenues, availing data to users, providing authentication and data updating services,” said Yodahe.
The project office concluded the trial phase, implemented for six months, after registering 100,000 citizens. Yodahe and his team are preparing to expand its coverage, registering up to 10 million people in the next phase, which will kick off next month. The task is to gather primary data and biometric information such as photographs, fingerprints, and scans.
Although the project office has no legal standing, the institutions it signed deals with are bound to be liable for personal data violations even before Parliament passes the law, argues Yehualashet Tamiru, a legal consultant and researcher.
“The office can invoke the agreement signed with the institutions to petition the courts,” said the expert.
PUBLISHED ON Aug 20,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1164]
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