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Sizeable task awaits Kenya’s first data commissioner

Kenya , 13 Nov 2020

President Uhuru Kenyatta has appointed Immaculate Kassait as Kenya’s first Data Commissioner.

In a special gazette notice issued yesterday, the President said, following section 6 of the Act, Kassait will head up the Commission for six years and will oversee the implementation of the Data Protection Act.

Kassait had to be vetted by by parliament before being appointed to her position.

Local media reported that Kassait’s work at at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) came under scrutiny, specifically because of the botched August 2017 general election that was subsequently officially nullified.

Kassait was reportedly hard-pressed to justify her candidacy.

Immaculate Kassait. (image: iebc.or.ke)
Immaculate Kassait. (image: iebc.or.ke)

Her appointment also coincides with the impending implementation of the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) which the Commission will also oversee in terms of its use in government services.

Information gathering for NIIMS has been contentious because of legal issues related to data privacy and use, which the government says will be “looked into” by the Commissioner.

The Commissioner will also be tasked with overseeing data processing operations. As detailed in the Act, this includes conducting “an assessment, on its own initiative of a public or private body, or at the request of a private or public body for the purpose of ascertaining whether the information is processed according to the provisions of this Act or any other relevant law.”

In January this year, Privacy International lauded the move to introduce the Data Protection Act in Kenya but warned of its ineffectiveness if the Office of the Data Commissioner is not an independent body.

It said in part: “The establishment of the office of the data commissioner as a body corporate does not grant this office with the necessary institutional and financial independence to execute its mandate effectively under the new law. In order to ensure the necessary independence and effectiveness of the Office it should be Statutory Commission which would be preferred to a State Office.”

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