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The revised Data Protection Bill now out

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by Randima Attygalle

The Data Protection Bill which was presented to the Legal Draftsman’s Department for further amendments to some of the provisions in the original Draft Bill has been released.

The Information and Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) has announced that several changes have been made to the substantive provisions of the original Draft Bill including re-arrangement of key provisions. The changes were based on the feedback of a number of stakeholders including the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Attorney General’s Department and the Ministry of Justice.

The Chair of the Data Protection Drafting Committee and the Legal Advisor to ICTA, Jayantha Fernando notes that, further amendments to the Bill are, however, possible once the Draft Bill is presented to the Cabinet and published as a Bill.

The original Draft Bill was reviewed by the Attorney General (AG) for compliance with Article 77 of the Constitution and the preliminary observations of AG received by the Drafting Committee in July last year. The Drafting Committee’s responses to AG’s observations were also reviewed by the Independent Review Panel, Chaired by Justice K. T. Chitrasiri and this response was sent to the AG and the Legal Draftsman in October. This was followed by several consultations between the Legal Draftsman’s Department and the Drafting Committee, through November and December last year.

The draft legislation defines ‘data’ as ‘any data by which an individual is identifiable and this includes name, an identification number, location data and also factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, psychological, economic, cultural or social identify of an individual’. Data protection is the right of a person to ensure that their personal data is not used, exchanged or even maintained without their knowledge.

The draft legislation Fernando told the Sunday Island imposes several obligations on those who collect and process personal data (‘Controllers’ and ‘Processors’). A new set of rights is also given to citizens under this new legislation, which are known as ‘Rights of data subjects’.

“For instance, personal data could be collected only for a specified purpose and not for any other purpose that is incompatible with the said purposes. However, processing data in public interest, scientific or historical research will not be considered incompatible. Personal Data has to be processed in a manner to ensure appropriate security, including protection against accidental loss, destruction or damage,” explains Fernando.

Data Subject (individuals) will also have the right to withdraw his or her consent given to Controllers and will also have the right to rectify the data without undue delay. Further, the Data Subjects have been given the right to object to processing of their data. These rights of Data Subjects can be exercised directly by the individuals with the Controller.

In the modern digital era where data is often at risk, both at individual and organizational level, this legislation becomes very relevant in view of certain measures introduced in the latest version of the Bill, points out the senior legal expert.

“Accountability measures for processing of personal data are required by the law to be implemented by government departments, banks, telco’s, companies etc. as forming a self-regulatory mechanism, referred to as ‘Data Protection Management Programme in the Law. There is also the right of appeal by citizens to the Data Protection Authority against the decisions made by entities which refuse their requests under the Law.”

Requirement for ‘Data Protection Impact Assessments’ (DPIA) by those entities doing high risk processing, becomes relevant in the context of digital adoptions in different organizations where individual data is collected. The Bill also defines criteria for cloud hosting of data under the provisions governing cross-border data flows and includes safeguards when data is hosted out of the country. Furthermore, the Data Protection Authority is vested with powers to give directives to the government and the private sector entities processing personal data and impose penalties in the event of non-compliance. There is a right of appeal from these decisions to the Court of Appeal.

Although laws on data protection have been in force in many parts of the world for several years, data protection is still a new concept to us. The drafting Committee, as it Chair explains, has taken into account international best practices, such as the OECD Privacy Guidelines, APEC Privacy Framework, Council of Europe Data Protection Convention, EU General Data Protection Regulation and laws enacted in other jurisdictions such as the UK, Singapore, Australia and Mauritius. “We have also studied the laws enacted in the State of California as well as the Indian Bill, when formulating the draft legislation,” Fernando remarked.

 

 



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Amendments to be incorporated into Colombo Port City Bill – GL

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP Chairman Prof. G. L. Peiris says amendments proposed by government lawyers in respect of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill submitted to the Supreme Court, through the Attorney General’s Department, would be incorporated into the Bill along with the amendments proposed by the Supreme Court.

Education Minister Peiris, one of the intervening parties in support of the Bill, says the government is confident of the passage of it in Parliament this week.

Prof. Peiris discussed the upcoming two-day debate on May 19 and 20 at the regular SLPP media briefing at their Nelum Mawatha Office in Battaramulla.

The former internationally distinguished law professor and Colombo University Vice Chancellor said that the government was determined to go ahead with the mega project as part of their overall efforts to attract investment. The Minister explained the need to go ahead with planned projects, regardless of difficulties caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic.

The Minister briefly described the procedures adopted in the passage of the Bill.

Petitioners that challenged the Bill included the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) and Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera represented by SLPP Colombo District lawmaker Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC. Petitioners asked for the Bill to be approved by a two-thirds majority in Parliament and at a referendum.

The only MP other than former Justice Minister Rajapakse to express concern over some provisions in the Bill was Yuthukama leader and SLPP National List parliamentarian Gevindu Cumaratunga.

At the onset of the briefing Prof. Peiris said the government was continuing with a vaccination drive to bring the Covid-19 situation under control. The minister acknowledged the difficulty in procuring the required number of covishield doses for those who required the second dose. The SLPP Chairman said that the government was discussing the issue at hand with both governments and the private sector in a bid to obtain the required stock.

Prof. Peiris placed the shortage of covishield vaccines at over 400,000 whereas the health ministry earlier estimated the shortfall at over 600,000.

Minister Peiris acknowledged that a daily count of approximately 2,500 new Covid-19 cases was quite a challenge though the government sustained efforts to keep the situation under control.

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Covid patients to be treated at centres close to homes

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Those diagnosed with COVID-19 would be sent to treatment centres and Intermediate Care Centres closest to their homes, the Health Ministry said yesterday

The decision was taken at a meeting held yesterday at the Health Ministry. Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle and Ministry officials took part in the meeting.

 A Health Minister’s spokesman said the decision had been taken to lessen the psychological trauma on the patient and the family.  

 The Ministry will also supply necessary medical equipment and medical staff to treatment centres that are being built by the government and non- governmental organizations.

 State Pharmaceutical Corporation (SPC) has been instructed to procure AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses required for the second jab as soon as possible. (RK)

 

 

 

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Digitalization way forward for Lanka – World Bank

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Healthcare workers in Sri Lanka enter data into the DHIS2 COVID-19 surveillance system(Pic courtesy World Bank)

Digitalization is the way forward for Sri Lanka to transform into a technology-based society, says the World Bank.

The WB report said that the Government of Sri Lanka has demonstrated its commitment to accelerate digital transformation. In order to reap the benefits of digital technologies, the country now needs to ensure that access to high-speed and affordable Internet is available to all citizens including in remote areas of the country and across income groups and gender. It also needs to ensure that the right policies, laws, and regulatory frameworks are in place to protect the security, data and rights of all especially the vulnerable.

In early 2020, when the COVID-19 lockdown began, Sri Lanka’s food supply chain was significantly disrupted leaving farmers and consumers to face the adverse effects of the pandemic. Wholesale and retail markets were closed and traders were encouraged to deliver food items directly to doorsteps following strict health guidelines.

However, to sell and deliver food items and agricultural products, small traders were required to register at the Divisional Secretariats (DS), local-level administrative units which serve as the primary citizen delivery points.

But government office closures significantly affected this process. Meanwhile, there was no means to submit and process permit requests electronically.

Now, the Government of Sri Lanka, led by the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) in collaboration with various stakeholders, has embarked on a highly anticipated digital transformation journey to address such issues.

With support from the World Bank’s Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC), ICTA is planning to bring services online to 10 selected Divisional Secretariats through piloting the ‘form.gov.lk’ initiative, a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) platform.

The platform will leverage existing infrastructure such as the Lanka Government Cloud (LGC 2.0), the government’s cloud computing infrastructure, and the Lanka Government Network, the government’s private network which connects 860 government offices across the country.

The proposed solution will offer the general public and businesses the capability to fill and submit relevant information and documents digitally without having to visit government offices.

These pilot services will range from civil registrations (births/deaths) and small business registrations to allowing farmers to process police permits for transporting crops.

Once the system is successfully piloted in selected DS offices, the platform can be scaled to other government organizations, reducing travel and building efficiency in service delivery including in areas outside of urban centres and contributing to Sri Lanka’s green recovery.

“Our biggest objective is to build the digital foundation for the government to continue serving all Sri Lankans during a crisis like this. This is just the beginning of our digital transformation journey” says Mehinda Herath, Chief Executive officer of ICTA.

The CERC will also build resilience in public service delivery by enabling government officials to work remotely.

This will be done through the implementation of a government-wide email and collaboration solution and video conferencing facilities; and by enhancing the capacity of the government cloud infrastructure (LGC 2.0) to support more services.

A disaster recovery site will also be established for LGC 2.0 so that critical data is not lost in times of exogenous shocks, including natural disasters such as flooding and cyclones.

“The vision of ICTA is to improve living conditions and livelihoods across Sri Lanka irrespective of geographical locations and other disparities. This will be done through effectively adopting digital technologies and developing the required enabling environment, including the legal framework, basic infrastructure such as unique digital ID and government wide digital connectivity as well as various other aspects that are required to develop the digital economy,” says Prof. Lilith Gamage, Chairman of ICTA.

Transforming Sri Lanka into a technology-based society is one of the key national policy objectives of the country, as highlighted in the President’s manifesto, Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor. This includes the implementation of a “whole-of-government approach” to digital government to improve the delivery of public services to all Sri Lankans; developing the technology industry for jobs and growth; and supporting digital entrepreneurship and growth of a digitally savvy workforce and population.

The government is developing a foundational digital ID system that is backed by biometrics. ICTA together with the Ministry of Justice has also commenced an initiative to establish a country-wide court management system with the aim of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the judicial system.

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