PRESS RELEASE

COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE

Year 2008 Selected
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N°: 100/2008
16 October 2008 [Praia - Cape Verde]

ECOWAS TELECOMMUNICATIONS MINISTERS ADOPT TEXTS ON CYBER CRIME, PERSONAL DATA PROTECTION

Regional Ministers in charge of Telecommunications and ICT have ended their one-day meeting on Thursday, 16th October 2008 in Praia, the capital of Cape Verde with the adoption of two important legal texts on cyber crime and personal data protection in ECOWAS Member States. The Supplementary Act on Cyber Crime within ECOWAS seeks to bridge the legal gap relating to cyber crime repression through the adoption of new offences specific to the use of ICT as well as adapt traditional offences to ICT offences, sanctions and the punishment regime in force in Member States to the new technological environment. The text relating to personal data protection within ECOWAS aims at filling the legal gap relating to personal data protection. It is also projected at establishing in each Member State a mechanism against privacy through personal data collection, processing, transmission, storage and use. While adopting the texts, the ministers requested the ECOWAS Commission to assist Member States to establish cyber crime surveillance centres and determine their composition and functions. Also, they recommended that ECOWAS, in collaboration with development partners – in particular the ITU, should organize seminars to build the capacities of regional legal experts on cyber crime control. Similarly, they requested that such training seminars be extended to other stakeholders in the sector and that Member States be encouraged to organize same at the national level. The ministers who adopted the report of a preceding three-day experts meeting, also approved the extension, by one year, of the deadline for the transposition of regional Supplementary Acts adopted by ECOWAS Heads of State in January 2007. The extension will enable all Member States to finalize the adoption of national laws on telecommunications and ICT. They pledged to take appropriate measures to ensure that the new deadline for the transposition of the Community texts is respected. In this regard, they encouraged Member States to emulate those that are far more advanced in the transposition exercise. In addition, they recommended that the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions should operationalize the Regional Monitoring Committee - as provided for in the June 2008 Dakar Plan of Action - by the end of December 2008. The ministers also appealed to the International telecommunications Union (ITU), the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions to provide technical and financial support to Member States that may so request, so as to ensure that all draft laws are formulated before the end of June 2009. While considering a report on the Global Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF), a new financial mechanism to fight against the digital divide between ECOWAS and the rest of the world, the ministers noted the various forms of support given to the Fund by world leaders and the international community, including the United Nations, the African Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. They decried the low membership level of West African states at the Fund and urged Member States which are not yet to become members to so and apply the principle of one per cent contribution, otherwise called the Geneva Principle. The contribution is part of the innovative financing mechanism of the Fund for development, specifically designed to reduce the digital divide. The ministers mandated the ECOWAS Commission to propose an operationalization mechanism in collaboration with the DSF, which was launched by President Abdoulie Wade of Senegal, in the region. At the opening, the Chairman of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers who is also the Minister of ICT of Burkina Faso, Mr. Noel Kabore, recalled ECOWAS’ adoption of the Supplementary Acts in January 2007, noting that they were being incorporated in the laws of Member States. He pointed out that the draft Community texts presented to the meeting were aimed at strengthening the security of the Information Society. He also urged the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions to foster their cooperation towards rationalizing their efforts regarding issues relating to Member States’ contribution to the Global Digital Solidarity Fund, which he said is an African initiative. He observed that the Fund was part of efforts to bridge the digital divide. In his address, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Infrastructure, Mr. Comla Kadje, recalled the steps leading to the adoption of a harmonized model known as the “centralized policy model for national application” by Ministers of telecommunications in 2004 in Lome. He explained that the model was designed to create a conductive environment for huge investments needed by the region for the development of ICT as well as to facilitate the creation of a single liberalized regional ICT market as required by regional leaders. The Commissioner who was represented by the ECOWAS Director of Transport and Telecommunications, Mr. David Kamara, however lamented that the transposition exercise would not be concluded before the February 2009 deadline because some countries were yet to initiate actions to ensure that the Supplementary Acts, prepared in collaboration with the ITU with financial support from the European Union, are mainstreamed into their national legislation. “In the attainment of the objectives of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), one major guideline is that trust and security in the use of Information and Communication Technologies should be guaranteed to enable ICT to contribute its quota to sustainable development in the areas of public administration, trade, education and training, employment, the environment, agriculture and science”, . He expressed optimism that the new texts would complement existing Community laws on ICT so that “our Community can be endowed with an appropriate legal tool for the creation of an environment of trust for users; in other words, these stakeholders should be assured that the services at their disposal present maximum security and reliability”. He also expressed the hope that the outcome of the meeting would ensure investments in the sector, the establishment of national and regional broad band communication networks as well as the provision of secure, reliable and quality ICT services at affordable prices for the citizens of West Africa. In his welcome statement, the Minister of State for Infrastructure, Transport and Telecommunications of Cape Verde, Mr. Manuel Inocencio Souse, declared Cape Verde’s commitment to improving the telecommunications climate, adding that the country had begun taking concrete steps towards creating the legal basis for competition, regulating the sector and liberalizing the ICT market. He said that the telecommunications sector has undergone deep reforms, including the coming into force of a new legal regime, the breaking the monopoly in the sector through granting of licences to new operators and creating a fully operational national regulatory agency. While describing telecommunications as a tool that will enhance trade, especially for isolated islands like Cape Verde, the minister expressed the country’s preparedness to ensure that the national texts in Cape Verde conformed to the ECOWAS’ legal framework, adding that it has advanced in the regional transposition exercise. Mr. Sousa reiterated Cape Verde’s desire to be fully integrated into the African region, even as it accomplishes its role as an Atlantic bridge connecting Africa, Europe and America. In her statement, the representative of ITU, Madam Margarida Evora Sagna, while recalling the ITU’s initiatives to promote cyber security, commended the efforts being made by ECOWAS and Member States to harmonize the telecommunications and ICT sector.


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