Data Privacy

Written by Maweu Michael

April 15, 2021

The dilemma of digital revolution, data privacy

In the last couple of weeks, we witnessed or participated in, albeit passively, the furore brought about by the privacy policy changes announced by messaging service WhatsApp. This will see the platform reserve the right to share some customer data across sister platforms Facebook and Instagram, regardless of whether you have an account or profile there.

While the thought of having your personal data shared saw a number of users migrate to the next available service, some took time to read through the data protection law while an insignificant fraction pored over areas that would make it comprehensive in protecting the privacy of Kenyans.

One area of interest was the guidelines and regulations to ensure that the law does not just exist on paper, but protects the metadata on Kenyan users.

There has been concern about exposure to troves of unnecessary and curated information without control — which is linked to Cambridge Analytica.

CONTROL VS CHOICE

While friend and foe agree that our society is undergoing a digital revolution — one that has and continues to transform our society economically and socially — the point of departure remains that of control versus choice, and the consequences arising from our data not being used in accordance to our wishes.

When the guard at an office reception requires duplication of my personal data onto his aged logbook, shouldn’t I be extended the liberty to question the intended application of this data?

Can’t I be left some room for input on how to utilise this data if perhaps it will assist in moving the queues faster on my next visit? Do I have a choice over not entering my data on the ground floor? Shouldn’t I have a right to decide how the books are disposed of after all?

See, with every technological revolution comes disruption and friction. The current one is fuelled by the availability of and opportunity in huge volumes of data, birthing the fad-phrase “Data is the new currency”.

The social resistance to the excesses of the new data economy is becoming increasingly visible, leading to calls for legislation that will proportionately benefit the users, got me thinking about why we need to actively shape this narrative to serve user interests and the opportunities we are yet to exploit.

While we are busily offsetting our fears on social networks, the contrast presents an opportunity to flip this argument to challenge the rigid ideas in data access and custodianship. That we demand better from entities in the custody of our data, that we expect nothing less of efficiency in our engagements.

We are living in the days where we willingly share our information, in the hope that someone will make better decisions based on this information and alleviate a headache or two, but they don’t.

The October 2020 Financial Stability report has it that Kenya’s Sacco industry is now accessed by 28.4 per cent of the adult population, as of December 2019, the highest in Africa.

RAPID ADOPTION

The growth is credited to the rapid adoption of technology and innovation in the provision of financial services, the common membership bond and the enhanced legal and regulatory environment.

Backed by its more than 10 million savers and collective savings of Sh501 billion, why then are we still victim to do the rigidity brought on by legacy systems, only to cry foul later when there is imminent collapse or financial impropriety?

While the place of technology in deepening financial inclusion cannot be gainsaid, we are still alive to entities that have held back from fully embracing what being digital entails.

A good number of us — myself included — have borne the pain that is accessing our annual savings statements, toiled seeking the coveted signature from a guarantor or stared at aged publications at our Sacco receptions waiting for the manager to sign off on our clearance form after we opted to shift to another Sacco in search of a ‘better customer experience’. I shall not dwell on this migration, given that the oppressive hierarchy, a cautious, regulation-determined risk appetite seems like a bare minimum for these our beloved financial intermediaries.

The going digital journey while noble is today limited to leveraging certain digital capabilities to win the customer experience champion spot, with little attention to the people and processes.

While the adoption of a mobile banking system to remit my monthly savings may constitute an element of digital, the urge to fill a physical form for compliance and legacy takes away from the whole experience.

This is especially so given the amount of member data that is in the custody of my Sacco, my growing loan limit, account statements, credit health or better yet the capability to secure my guarantorship electronically. These are just some of the choices that exist within the realm of data use.

With so much potential for transformation, the task ahead is to seek congruence between users and the entities.

The reality is that data if and when applied correctly has the potential to hasten decision making, open up more revenue opportunities and for the users, efficiency and transparency over legacy operations.

While on one hand, we are protesting the availability of our data on social platforms, there remain entities with far more data than they should be using to better our lives, but instead, find joy in accumulating more and more of it.

We need to hold these entities accountable as well in this data rewiring process. Because in the end, it is about our control over what happens to this information, and choice of its application wholesomely.

Written by

Presta Admin Marketing team

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