The Uganda Communications Commission Executive Director Mr Godfrey Mutabazi has called for responsible data management systems to protect consumers from risks associated with financial technology.
In a key-note address at the two-day Africa Financial Technology Festival at Kampala Serena Hotel on Thursday, Mr Mutabazi explained that while data fuels the digital economy, it can be abused, something the Commission is mandated to prevent.
The Fintechs Festival, which was organised by Financial Sector Deepening Uganda (FSDU) and Financial Technology Service Providers Association of Uganda (FITSPA), aims to cultivate inclusive platforms through which financial technology can thrive as it supports the growth of the digital economy in Africa.
The annual event attracted financial technology actors, regulators, policymakers, bankers and other stakeholders from several African countries.
In his presentation on “The shifting role of telecommunications regulators in a world of financial technology”, Mr Mutabazi noted that as technological advancements disrupt existing norms and enhance competencies at an unprecedented rate, such change comes with opportunities for innovation and growth.
He observed that the application of technology in financial services had yielded significant benefits, notably allowing innovative firms to expand their reach, improve their service provision and diversify the range of products and services they can offer.
“We have seen these gains manifest in Uganda as the nascent Fintech industry has grown, transforming retail, transport and banking,” he said. These gains, Mr Mutabazi added, have thankfully trickled down to the consumer in form of a broader range of relatively affordable financial products and services.
Mr Mutabazi emphasised that the Uganda Communications Commission has a duty to ensure that financial technology grows and thrives without doing so at the expense of the consumer.
“Encouraging innovation and protecting consumers go hand in hand, and will always remain the core mandate of regulators,” he said.
Mr Mutabazi had earlier noted that while financial technology and data analytics, in general, has brought many opportunities, they have also presented many challenges.
As with any valuable resource, “data can be abused and exploited,” he said, underlining the Commission’s mandate to prevent negative consequences of data usage.
In that regard, the UCC Executive Director observed that any discussion on data sharing must include issues of data protection, and any conversation around data portability must also address consumer consent and data security.
On the Data Ecosystem Inquiry that the Commission undertook in collaboration with Financial Sector Deepening Uganda (FSDU), Mr Mutabazi said the recommendations from this study would lay the foundation for the regulator’s future interventions in the sector.
The Data Ecosystem Inquiry that took place in May 2019 brought together several stakeholders to share information and participate in the discourse on the use of data in Uganda’s digital economy.
“It was brilliant to see firms proactively discussing not just how to remove barriers restricting data, but how to ensure that data is shared safely and with full consent of consumers,” Mr Mutabazi said of the data ecosystem survey.
On his part, Mr Hennie Bester, the Programme Director at Cape Town-based Insight2Impact, told his audience at the festival that collaboration between African governments and the private sector is paramount to take advantage of the wide markets while protecting the consumer.
Over the two days, the festival engaged in critical debates on issues ranging from consumer protection, disruption of savings, credit, insurance and pension value chains, to borderless operations, non-traditional partnerships, and game-changing business models.