On the 22nd and 23rd of September, Research ICT Africa (RIA) and the SADC Parliamentary Forum co-hosted an online workshop under the theme ‘Promoting Inclusive Development in SADC through the Digital Economy”. The workshop, attended by around forty SADC parliamentarians, is part of a series of activities RIA is organising alongside the Parliament in order to move toward the development of a Model Law on the Digital Economy for the region.
The growing relevance of the digital economy is both a political and economic acknowledgement. This is also spurred by the emergence of the African Continental Free Trade Area in the region. Digitisation, digitalisation and datafication on a global scale have been defining the socio-economic development of the 21st century. Technological innovation and economic liberalisation have caused a fundamental shift in the global economy in the past four decades, dramatically affecting power relations and productive forces at global, national and local levels. All of this presents real challenges for lawmakers; not least of all because of the “pacing problem” under which technological innovation is increasingly outpacing the ability of laws and regulations to keep up.
Within this political, economic and technological complexity, the workshop opened by considering the broader global and economic context before turning to outline the specifics around the digital economy. Based on comprehensive research that RIA has been undertaking over the last two years, policy sessions then considered, in particular, recommendations for consideration within the Model Law in the areas of:
- Data protection, access and intervention;
- Cybersecurity and cybercrime; and
- Innovation, intellectual property and copyright.
Participation by attendees over the two days strongly focused on the digital divisions that are undercutting progress in the digital economy, helping to emphasise the need for considered and context-specific law and regulation.
Participating parliamentarians now have a few weeks to submit comments on the presentations, before the drafting phase of the Model Law will begin.