Today’s dynamics of how we interact with each other and the world at large is greatly influenced by technology. Communication is faster, more easily accessible, virtual and above all, free for just anyone to create and disseminate information. Facebook for example asks, ‘’ What’s on your mind?’’ to over (2) billion of its daily users, a good number of who respond accordingly. The digital economy is another area in which the innovations are forward looking and systematically changing banking system.   

As such, a new domain of laws and regulations have and will have to be passed in order to guide this shift. In as much as digital innovation has created game-changing opportunities for development, cybercrime continues to grow like an ulcer. In other cases, many entities such as donor organizations, governments, and the like, continue to require personal data of beneficiaries from recipient organisations.  It is therefore prudent to foster conversation on how far the law has come to match the technological growth, hence the conversations on cyber laws. 

 Cyber Laws and Society 

A large part of human society or civilisation has always been the laws and regulations that govern everyday life and work. For the entirety of human existence day-to-day life has been lived in the physical realm, where people meet and speak and where there are transactions to be made, physically exchange things, from barter trade to cash exchanges. 

 Over the past decade however a significant portion of human interaction has steadily evolved from being physical and in-person, to increasingly online and interpersonal. Even the personal touch of exchanging money has moved from physical cash to digital transactions such as mobile money. There are online dating websites, people meet new friends through social media platforms like Facebook and messaging services like Whatsapp and even games are increasingly played through the internet such as the online game Crossfire which boasts over half a billion registered users and states that it generally has up to 8 million people playing at the same time. 

 With parents increasingly giving their pre-teen children mobile phones and tablets to communicate, couples sharing private and intimate conversations via chat apps, it is imperative that these communications be protected as conversations intended to be kept private (unless it is a matter involving criminal action or omission).  

 It is unquestioned that it is a criminal act for someone without invitation or permission to enter the unlocked house of another, even with the main door open. It should be similarly recognizable, that acts intended to grant access to someone’s private online data without permission or explicit consent should be unlawful. This is now the case with Uganda. The Parliament of Uganda recently passed a law that seeks to protect personal data, wherever it may be and however it may have gotten there. The Data Protection and Privacy Act of 2019 is a first huge step in this direction, 

 The Cyber Laws of Uganda Report 

 On Friday 29th November, BarefootLaw in partnership the Digital Human Rights Lab; a project being implemented by Future Challenges and betterplace lab, with support from GIZ, launched The Cyber Laws of Uganda report at the Imperial Royale Hotel, Kampala. The Digital Human Rights Lab is a virtual and physical and physical space offering an opportunity for interested professionals working in different fields of human rights protection to share their ideas concerning digitalization, human rights and digital security aspects. 

 The report examines the legal framework of Uganda in relation to online activity, observations and recommendations: citing scenarios for online activities, mobile money systems, electronic commerce, access to government information, electronic government services, cybercrime, and personal data protection. The report is written in a very easy to read format with minimal legal language and direct citation of statutes so that it can be easily digested by people of all professional backgrounds. For the legal enthusiast however, after the report is a series of Annexures that delve into more detail on the legal framework specifically citing provisions of Acts, Rules, Regulations and even Guidelines; and referencing locus clasicus cases. This framework delves into numerous laws from the Constitution of Uganda to the Access to Information Act (a much needed law for journalists), the Bank of Uganda Act, related laws and regulations including the Mobile Money Guidelines, Financial Institutions Act and other related laws among many others. 

‘’ The launch cyber laws report is the beginning of a longer conversation on cyber laws and regulations. The four main recommendations it makes are, we need to create understanding of the cyber law framework in Uganda; adaptation of cyber space-enhancing laws; enforce these laws; and lastly, create awareness,’’ Bos says.  

 The launch events started with a workshop in the earlier half of the day, where participants from various organizations across different sectors were led through a discussion geared towards enabling them to understand the practicality of the principles involved in data collection and privacy. 

 In the afternoon, Kenneth Muhangi, the Managing Partner at KTA Advocates and representative of the World Economic Forum gave a keynote speech in which he implored the attendees to be proactive in this fourth industrial revolution. ‘’ Laws should not be passed in a vacuum, we need to start having such conversations so that where we are going will not be obsolete,’’ he explained.  

 The insightful panel session attracted five individuals; Caroline Mugisha from NITA, Shayna Robison (Pollicy), Rita Ngenzi (HiiL), Daniel Muwanguzi (MIDAS BPO), Raymond Mujuni (NBS) from regulatory, e-commerce, innovation and media backgrounds to share experiences and lessons from their interaction in the cyber space


BarefootLaw Cyber Laws of Uganda Report 

 BarefootLaw is a not-for-profit organisation with the aim to improve access to justice in Uganda by providing free access to legal information by using innovative technology. ‘’ The world is unjust. Over 5.1 billion people live with a legal need. Therefore, it is our duty to use technology to the benefit of reaching as many people as possible with solutions to their justice needs. This report is a step, in that direction,’’ Gerald Abila, ED and founder of BarefootLaw, says.