Digital safety is a fundamental right for consumers, and all stakeholders should join hands to enforce it, the Uganda Communications Commission Ag. Executive Director Irene Kaggwa Sewankambo has said.
“The Commission recognises that digital safety is a fundamental right for all consumers; it is not a privilege, and guaranteeing it is a concerted effort of all stakeholders,” she explained.
In remarks made at the commemoration of World Consumer Rights Day, at UCC House in Bugolobi on Tuesday, Ms. Kaggwa Sewankambo observed that as the uptake of digital services continues to rise steadily, especially with COVID-19, there is a concomitant increase in digital space abuse.
“It is, therefore, of paramount importance to raise awareness about the overt and concealed dangers and risks associated with online activity,” she said. “This is the first line of defence in as far as consumer protection is concerned.”
World Consumer Rights Day is celebrated every March 15 to raise awareness about consumer rights, needs, and interests. First observed in 1983, the occasion has over the years become a rallying point for activists demanding justice and fairness for consumers.
In Uganda, the Commission is at the forefront of championing this event because its mandate, as enshrined in Section 5(k) of the Uganda Communications Act 2013, obliges UCC “to promote and safeguard the interests of consumers and operators as regards the quality of communications services and equipment.”
Accordingly, the Commission has mainstreamed consumer protection in the execution of its regulatory duties, including the establishment of a fully-fledged Consumer Protection Department, redress processes, the passing of the Consumer Protection Regulations of 2019, and engagement with external stakeholders such as consumer advocacy groups.
At the Commission’s head office on Tuesday, invited representatives of Government agencies, consumer advocacy organisations and service providers converged to discuss consumer empowerment for digital safety in line with the day’s theme, “Digital Safety for All.”
A panel discussion on the subject was one of the highlights, with the UCC Ag. Executive Director, the National Director Personal Data Protection Office, Stella Alibateese, the Bank of Uganda Executive Director for National Payment Systems, Mackay Aomu, and the Team Leader Consumer Education Trust, Kimera Henry Richard, leading the conversation.
Another highlight was the launch of the Tonfera campaign, a mass media initiative that seeks to combat digital fraud by drawing consumers’ attention to the fraudsters’ predictable tricks through relatable skits.
Panelists concurred that consumers need to be vigilant and informed to avoid being taken advantage of. They similarly agreed on the need for stakeholder collaboration in the quest for consumer empowerment to safeguard digital spaces.
Ms. Alibateese called on consumers to watch out what they share online, and with who, noting that digital risk starts with a stranger accessing your private information.
On his part, Mr. Aomu observed that mobile money transactions in Uganda had reached Shs 400 billion monthly, making it even more significant to protect such critical data.
Veteran consumer rights advocate Mr. Kimera called on consumers to be informed, saying that digital safety is at the core of every aspect of people’s lives.
Emphasizing the obligations and responsibilities of the consumer, the Ag. Executive Director observed that users of digital spaces must be conscious of the fact that “not everything in these spaces is noble.”
She added that notwithstanding ongoing efforts such as “the right to be forgotten”, the internet doesn’t forget, so beware what you share!
The Executive Director also called on parents, guardians, policy makers and implementers to create a safer digital environment for children who are targeted for obvious reasons.
“Developing digital intelligence, harnessing social and emotional skills such as respect, empathy, critical thinking, and responsible behaviour remains a responsibility to all of us,” she said.