The Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) has said that Nigerians, including those located in the urban areas, are not aware of laws and policies guiding the procurement of Digital Technology Systems (DTSs) in the country.
This is contained in a “Report on Government Procurement of Digital Technology Systems and Digital Rights and Privacy in Nigeria”, launched on Tuesday in Abuja.
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The 70-page report also said that DTSs budget and procurement plans are not always available to the public and that many Nigerians do not even know their rights when it comes to DTSs.
“For public access, such information is expected to be available on the public procurement platform, the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal (NOCOPO). Most of this information is, however, missing from the platform.
“Also, during the procurement process, the CSOs are expected to be present during the opening of bids, but that is not always the case as most times, CSOs are not invited to the bid opening processes,” the report said.
Also, the communication head of PPDC, Nnenna Eze said during the presentation that, “Citizens including those located in the urban areas are not aware of the laws and policies that guide the procurement and use of DTSs.”
According to the report, the government has increased procurement of DTSs to unify all identification information into a central database and that the growing demand for Nigerian citizens to register for their National Identification Numbers (NINs) and voter’s cards is driving the government’s continued technology investment in the National Identification Management Database (NIMS).
It said, “Currently, NIMS is being integrated with every other identification database in the country, such as the voter’s register, the BVN, the Immigration Service, the driver’s license, and the telecommunications companies. This indicates an effort by the government to unify all identification information into a central database.
“With the unification of all databases, digital and policy experts are pushing for a new law, the Data Protection Bill, which will create an identification management authority-the Office of the Independent Data Protection Commissioner responsible for the regulation of data collection.
“The proliferation of databases for citizens’ information increases the opportunity for illegal access to citizens’ data, and the law aims to address such concerns.”
The PPDC, however, urged the Federal Government to prioritize data privacy and protection by amending the existing laws that relate to the use of DTSs to ensure that the procurement and use of DTSs do not infringe on the rights of citizens, thereby ensuring adequate protection of citizens’ privacy and personal data.
The PPDC Senior Programme Officer, Kachi Chukwu and PPDC Chief Operating Officer (COO), Gift Maxwell, said the organization’s three key areas of monitoring public procurement, access to information and open contracting has been able to entrenched transparency in Nigeria.
Chukwu said, “Basically, what we do at PPDC is that we make use of Freedom of Information Act to request information with MDAs and we put it out to the public. The whole essence of this is that we as Nigerians deserve to have access to public information in regards public finance expenditure but we also try to open up procurement processes in Nigeria, open up public financial expenditure in Nigeria.
“This is to ensure transparency and accountability in the public procurement process at every point in time so we have conducted research looking at digital technology systems in Nigeria as well as digital rights and privacy in Nigeria basically trying to understand how open the procurement process of digital technology are in Nigeria as well as to what extent are digital rights and data rights Nigeria has protected at every point in time.”
Also, the PPDC’s COO Maxwell, said, “As the world enters into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4G) it has become increasingly important for government to transition into the digital process service delivery.
“In light of this there will be more investment in the digital technology systems, however, with the continuous investment and procurement in digital technology systems, it has become very necessary to assess how this technology drives the nation’s economy and how it affects our citizens rights.
“It is in line with this that this body aims to understand how government procurement of such digital systems such as artificial intelligence artificial recognition and digital identity in Nigeria. The is also going to examine Nigerian citizens awareness of the procurement and investment on these digital systems by the government and how to use these technology systems in a way that it will affect human rights and privacy of citizens.”