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Electoral act amendment bill must include data sovereignty

As National Assembly gets set to amend the electoral act, there is need to introduce data sovereignty into the bill before electronic voting. This will…

As National Assembly gets set to amend the electoral act, there is need to introduce data sovereignty into the bill before electronic voting. This will assist various tribunals when delivering judgment on electoral cases. We cannot use another country’s law on data to deliver judgment on our electoral disputes. Nigeria needs law on data sovereignty for our election tribunals, court of appeal and Supreme Court before we can introduce electronic voting. Nigeria cannot use another country’s law on data sovereignty to operate electronic voting in Nigeria. This is fundamental.

I have identified proactive data sovereignty policy framework as sine qua non for electronic voting, and cyber and national security drives. The most tactical approach to tackling election fraud, and cyber security involves developing local data sovereignty.

When we talk of Data Sovereignty we mean the ability to build data centres which host and process our data wholly and locally in Nigeria. If Data is the new oil, Nigeria needs to have that oil refined at home. Yes, we refine and then export capabilities around the world.

Aside section 37 of the 1999 Constitution which provides that “the privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondences, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected”, there is currently no comprehensive data privacy or personal information protection law in Nigeria that sets out detailed provisions on the protection of the privacy. We cannot use foreign data to conduct electronic voting in Nigeria because we cannot tell our election tribunals and courts handling election cases to use another country’s law on data sovereignty.

Electronic voting has overwhelming advantages that can help in addressing the nation’s electoral problems but Nigeria needs data sovereignty law first. We need a data law as electronic voting has become imperative in the nation’s political history to fully employ technology to have a better electoral system. For me, any day, I will vote for the voting machines. And there must be data sovereignty law to conduct election tribunals. The nation needs to do a lot of ground work on data sovereignty law, especially to assure the politicians across the country, who believe that anything electronic can be used to commit fraud and be manipulated.

Data sovereignty in Nigeria is the idea that data is subject to the laws and governance structures within the nation. The concept of data sovereignty is closely linked with data security, cloud computing and technological sovereignty. Unlike technological sovereignty, which is vaguely defined and can be used as an umbrella term in policy making, data sovereignty is specifically concerned.

Nigeria needs law on data sovereignty that will address the problem of electronic voting in the next general elections, which will hold in 119,973 polling units, while results will be collated in 8,809 wards.

Inwalomhe Donald writes from Abuja via [email protected]