Tech for Public Good: Should public worry for
data privacy implications with the deployment
of digital surveillance Cameras around Kigali?
Collection, handling and sharing of private data and public information
continue to bring dividing opinions as government embark on tapping into
ICT solutions to ensure efficiency and enhance data privacy.
Starting from May this year, the government of Rwanda has embarked on
putting up the Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras all around the
main roads of the city of Kigali.
According to the Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA) and
Rwanda National Police, who are in charge of implementing this
policy,the use of CCTVs will significantly boost security by establishing a
robust mechanism of detecting, and preventing crime.
The Inspector-General of Police, Dan Munyuza indicates that the use of
camera networks across the country, anchored in special presidential
directives, is in line with ensuring the general public security.
During a recent press briefing, the IGP stated, “They are well advanced to
the extent they don’t only capture the traffic speed, there those which
monitor the violations of road traffic regulations, and there those that
could run number plate recognition of vehicles, and we can see them from
the commanding post here at the police headquarters,”
An online source defines a closed-circuit television(CCTV) as, ‘a video
surveillance type of camera network system that enables surveillance by
transmitting its signals only to the screens that are directly connected to it.’
Apart from the CCTV Networks in Kigali city, the government has
implemented the “traffic radars” on major highways that link capital city
Kigali with neighbouring countries. since earlier in May this year, over
hundreds of traffic radar devices will have been installed.
These include Kigali- Kagitumba as you connect to Kagitumba border
with Uganda, Kigali- Rusumo on your way to Tanzania, Kigali-Nyamata-
Nemba connecting with Burundi, Kigali-Muhanga-Huye- Rusizi going in
the south-west border with Democratic Republic of Congo and Kigali-
Musanze as you connect with DR Congo in the north-west.
In addition, the government has adopted a new policy along with a number
of measures; the use of technology that would significantly improve road
safety and security of its users. Government officials emphasize that all
these measures add up on the Law Governing Information and
Communication Technologies of 2018, which provides for prevention and
punishment against cybercrime offences.
“We are going to roll out the installation of the radar countrywide with
much emphasis made on the accident spots. Some of them will be static
whereas others will be mobile and placed on a certain area for a different
purpose,”. Munyuza revealed that a survey that had been carried out on
the roads had indicated several places, and it had suggested where all these
cameras would be installed.
According to the head of Rwanda national Police IGP Munyuza, which is
now under the docket of the newly reintroduced Ministry of Internal
Security, CCTV data is collected through a dedicated private network
which can not be accessible over the Internet. The storage of this data is
regulated by internal standard operating procedures of the Rwanda
National Police and the use of relevant tools to secure the IT environment.
However, there are some concerns about the process of collection,
handling and sharing of personal data and risks of illegal surveillance
through the use of CCTVs which continue to divide the public opinion.
In this context of the introduction of the cutting-edge digital surveillance
technology capacity, coupled with the massive development of the digital
economy in both public and private sector requires the need to have a
comprehensive data protection legal framework in place, to protect and
promote the right to privacy.
Data collection in the wake of data scandals such as Cambridge Analytica
and the 2018 Google data breach have culminated to public scepticism in
ways of data in which data is collected and processed.
A great responsibility is placed on the state to protect the privacy of
citizens by implementing more comprehensive guidelines preventing
government and corporations from overstepping their boundaries by
articulating the rights and freedoms of people in digital spaces, meaning
data subjects can request information about why and how their data is
This is considering that today Rwanda is striving for the digital era with
the proliferation use of biometrics and digitized public services.
Furthermore, as the digital economy and cashless transactions are
becoming increasingly common in the country. while these systems
promote certain benefits. however, there is however insufficient focus on
the potential consequences of the technology such as the collection and
use of personal data for commercial purposes, and how this practice leads
to algorithmic manipulation of human behaviour on the decision we make
and the services we receive.
In the meantime, this recent development links up with the global debate
about the ability of silicon valley’s GAFA to freely collect consumers
personal data in developing countries without any regulations has raised
questions and public concerns about the lack of a clear comprehensive
legislation and a regulatory framework on personal data privacy and data
protection in the country.
Although, Article 23 of the Constitution of Rwanda, 2003 (revised in
2015), reaffirms the Respect for Privacy.
Besides the Constitution, other relevant laws like the Penal Code, the 2010
law relating to electronic transactions and the 2001 law governing
telecommunications recognize and provide for some guidelines regarding
the protection of privacy and personal data.
However, the right to privacy enshrined in the Rwandan Constitution has
yet to be operationalized, the existing ICT laws and regulations only
recognize so far the user consent and opt-in mechanisms.
Moving through the Region, Kenya is so far the only country that has
recently enacted a comprehensive data protection law. the Kenyan Act
that outlines why and how data is collected, its handling and sharing of
personal information or data; among the groundbreaking statutes written
into the law is the provision for a data protection commissioner; a
mechanism that enable citizens and data subjects to ascertain whether their
personal information is being processed in accordance with the applicable
data protection legislation.
With regard to protection of privacy and personal data information, it is
important to note that according to the recent figures published in 2019 by
Rwanda Investigation Bureau it has been revealed that there were at least
113 cases of cybercrime particularly targeting personal data related to
financial transactions. A figure that has doubled compared to the previous
year of 2018.
Furthermore, based on the recent 2018 Africa Cybersecurity Report by
Serianu Limited, the cost of theft of personal data in Africa was estimated
at $3.5 Billion, a rise from 2016.
Experts indicate that the use of technology in public life should be centred
around transparency and the rule of law. In particular, privacy and security
as the pillars of trustworthy services that enhance the overall well being of
The development and the implementation of smart cities and the safety
and security policies must be done responsibly, with full understanding
and mitigation of their impact on the citizens right to privacy and other
While the rights to privacy and personal data are not absolute. they must
be rigorously safeguarded, the right to privacy may only be limited
through a law which regulates infringement. Although some databases can
be used for legitimate purposes, there are many risks associated with
collecting and storing the very information that constitutes an individual’s
The Cambridge Analytica scandal shows us how damaging technologies
can have a corrosive effect on privacy, the misappropriation of personal
information can deny individuals their identity especially when data is
collected without proper control or oversight. In many countries around
the world, national privacy laws are increasingly being revised to
strengthen the protection of personal data privacy and impose penalties for
As Rwanda today is striving for the digital era with digitized public
services with an online open portal like “Irembo”, cashless transactions,
digitized citizens’ identity cards and passports. Thus as the scale and the
scope of digital economy development accelerates the demand for data is
increasing. further, in the context of the current vacuum of a
comprehensive data framework, there is a heightened risk of data misuse.
Therefore it is imperative for the government to respond to public
concerns around privacy with a robust legal framework for data protection
that will enforce accountability towards the citizens over the use of their
personal information by bodies or corporations that collect them.