Immaculate Kassait, a former Director of Voter Registration and Electoral Operation at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), was on Monday, November 16 sworn in as the country’s first ever Data Commissioner.
The role was created by the Data Protection Act, 2019, which established the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.
The act was created to regulate the processing of personal data, to protect the privacy of individuals and to establish a legal and institutional mechanism to protect personal data.
It provides rights and remedies for individuals to protect their personal data from processing that contravenes stipulations set out in the act.
Kassait’s first task will be overseeing the distribution of Huduma Namba cards and a second mass registration exercise for the cards, which are set to replace national Identification (ID) cards.
The government launched distribution of the cards a day after Kassait was sworn in.
The High Court had previously halted operationalization of the Huduma Namba due to the lack of a substantive Data Commissioner.
According to the Data Protection Act, the Data Commissioner will be the accounting officer and head of the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.
The Data Commissioner will have far-reaching powers, including the power to conduct investigations on their own initiative or on the basis of a complaint made by a data subject or a third party.
Kassait will also be able to issue summons to a witness for the purposes of investigation and to facilitate conciliation, mediation and negotiation on disputes arising from the Data Protection act.
Among other powers, the Data Commissioner will also be able to impose administrative fines for failures to comply with the act.
The Data Commissioner will play several roles, including overseeing the implementation and enforcement of the act.
The Data Commissioner will also establish and maintain a register of data controllers and data processors, exercise oversight on data processing operations and carry out inspections of public and private entities with a view to evaluating the processing of personal data.
Importantly, the Data Protection act stipulates that the Office of the Data Commissioner may, in the performance of its functions collaborate with national security organs.
As the country’s first Data Commissioner, Kassait will also be tasked with promoting international engagement and collaboration on data-related matters.
She will also be responsible for ensuring Kenya’s compliance with data protection obligations under international conventions and agreements.