Kenya to publish draft data protection bill this month: minister

FILE PHOTO: A man holds his phone to take a Facebook live video near a chasm suspected to have been caused by a heavy downpour along an underground fault-line near the Rift Valley town of Mai Mahiu, Kenya March 28, 2018. Picture taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya will publish a draft data protection law this month to create safeguards for personal data held by mobile phone-based lenders and others, Minister of Information, Communication and Technology Joe Mucheru said on Monday.

It will specify how data can be stored and shared and will take into account standards set by data protection laws outside Kenya including in the European Union, Mucheru said.

The government estimates that mobile phone-based financial firms are lending more than 15 billion Kenya shillings ($148.51 million) daily, he said.

“We cannot ignore the fact that we have become a digital economy and therefore we need to have all the protections that are needed,” he told Reuters.

The draft is the latest attempt to regulate a growing number of phone-based lenders who range from large Kenyan firms like Safaricom, which partners with local lenders, to start-ups several of which are backed by Silicon Valley investors.

“It is something that we must do as a country,” the minister said. The bill be published within two weeks and the ministry will develop a final version after input from the industry and the public, before it is presented to parliament.

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), adopted last month, is seen as a landmark law that gives EU citizens new rights over how their personal data are used.

As it was for mobile money systems, Kenya is something of a test case for the new lending platforms.

The finance ministry published another draft bill last month aimed at reining in the high interest rates charged by some of those lenders on their loans to customers.

Editing by Maggie Fick and Matthew Mpoke Bigg