President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has directed ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) that have not registered with the Data Protection Commission (DPC) to do so as a matter of urgency.
He said the government's industrialisation, agricultural revolution and other policies aimed at deepening democratic governance would be anchored on a robust data management system.
“The ambitious socio-economic transformation agenda being pursued by my government for the prosperity of the mass of Ghanaians will largely depend on accurate data and systems that ensure integrity and trust, so the relevance of the Data Protection Act, 2012 (Act 843) in the drive towards a dignified, self-reliant and prosperous Ghana should not be taken for granted,” he said
The directive was contained in a speech delivered on his behalf by the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, at the opening session of a two-day data protection conference in Accra yesterday.
Being held on the theme: "Safeguarding fundamental human rights through data protection", the conference brought together policy makers, regulators, heads of security agencies and representatives from data protection authorities in parts of Africa and the world.
The conference is a platform to discuss innovations in the data industry, the opportunities and challenges and how to build a robust framework for the efficient protection of the privacy of personal data.
President Akufo-Addo said the DPC would play a pivotal role in the government's quest to roll out an effective and accurate national identification and addressing system, adding that "our ability to build a strong and resilient economy capable of generating prosperity means we must plan well”.
"The focus will be to have an accurate and efficient identification and addressing infrastructure that will enable us to eliminate wastage of the taxpayer's money in several areas, including the process of registration and re-registration for elections, as well as allegations of bloated registers in our electoral process," he said.
President Akufo-Addo added that the government's policies on restructuring institutions of governance, modernising agriculture to enhance productivity and implementing a clear industrial policy would not be possible if there were no accurate data.
"Today, as a country, we are challenged by our inability to properly plan and target our resources on real need basis to the mass of Ghanaians as a result of lack of accurate data on who deserve what service or resources and where they are located," he said.
President Akufo-Addo further stated that the global and regional nature of overarching issues called for collaboration beyond the national level to build a robust framework that would ensure privacy and data protection for the growth of national economies.
For her part, the Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, said even though there had been a boom in technology and expansion in data over the years, insufficient protection of personal data could make that boom counter-productive.
"The policy position of the Communications Ministry is, therefore, to create a balance that facilitates the development and growth of information and communications technologies (ICTs).
"Creating trust online is a fundamental challenge to ensure that the opportunities emerging in the information economy can be fully leveraged," she said.
She said the recent decision by the High Court on the illegality of searching personal electronic devices of suspects by the police, without a search warrant, and the National Communications Authority (NCA) 2014 unsolicited electronic communication (UEC) code of conduct were key milestones in the development of privacy laws.
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful urged the participants to use the conference as a useful platform to explore efficient ways of ensuring that regulators, service providers and other players in the data industry enhanced their relationship.
For her part, the Executive Director of the DPC, Mrs Teki Akuetteh Falconer, said the commission had developed a data protection compliance guide, a document that would help data controllers and processors to comply with the annual compliance reporting and auditing process.
“The guide will be a useful tool for those with responsibilities on data protection and also help management and administrators to understand the data protection issues that confront them,” she added.
She said the DPC had advanced plans to establish a data protection certification programme to build the capacity of data protection practitioners in the country.
Other speakers called for cross-border collaboration and the prioritisation of data protection as a measure to boost business confidence and enhance accountability in governance.