Discussion Series on the Proposed Data Protection Bill to Enable a Thriving Digital Economy

July 1, 2021

The Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) of Sri Lanka recently conducted a three-day series on the Proposed Data Protection Bill to enable a thriving digital economy. The three-day program was conducted on the 15th,16th, and 17th of June with eminent speakers from the industry and legal fraternity.

Over 400 participants consisting of C-level and senior management officers representing multiple industries such as banking, financial services, healthcare, legal, and manufacturing, actively participated in the discussion. Over 60% of the partipants represented the technology industry, while it is also important to note the interest and participation from the government, NGOs, and education sectors.  

In the digital economy, data is of strategic importance. With social, economic, and governmental activities increasingly being carried out online, the flow of personal information is expanding fast. Current technology, Cloud services, the internet of things, Big data, and future technology can deliver enormous benefits. But they also make it more urgent to address concerns over data and privacy. The Challenge for data protection regimes is managing the risks and addressing the concerns without restricting or eliminating the potential benefits.

Against this backdrop, the inaugural session was conducted by Mr. Jayantha Fernando – General Counsel ICTA, and Mr. Anura De Alwis- Chief Digital Economy Officer ICTA. Mr. Jayantha Fernando speaking at the session, stated,  “this is a timely discussion in the current context. Covid-19 has only increased its intensity. The law broadly spells out a range of obligations by entities collecting data and the rights of individuals who provide data. From a duty of care perspective, this law imposes a set of obligations on organisations that collect data and how they would process it. The Bill will be in line with internationally acceptable standards”.

Mr. Anura De Alwis- Chief Digital Economy Officer ICTA, went on to say ‘some of the key factors considered by potential investors are workforce skills, economic conditions, industry and supporting legal frameworks. The proposed Bill will give confidence to potential investors about Data protection security and privacy which is an important consideration factor.  As the boundaries of working keep shrinking day by day, and employment opportunities open up globally, as employees, it is also important to know how one should handle data with care. Therefore Data protection becomes a crucial element in the broader agenda of  Digital Economy’

Day 2 consisted of an engaging panel discussion participated by  Keerthi Pathiraja Attorney-at-Law, Head of Legal/ Company Secretary- Nestle Lanka PLC, Samantha De Soysa Attorney-at-law / Barrister (Lincons-Inn),  Sanduni Wickramasinghe,  Attorney-at-Law and Privacy Professional, Member of Drafting Committee and Shenuka Jayalath –Attorney-at-Law, Manager-Regulatory-Group Legal and Regulatory – Dialog Axiata PLC. Anudi Nanayakkara, Legal Officer ICTA, moderated the session

Anudi Nanayakkara, Legal Officer ICTA, commenting on this initiative, stated, “ the influx of audience inquiries and commentary during the discussion of the draft Bill provided a clear indication of the value placed on balancing global digital economy opportunities stemming from the use of data, as against understanding the inherent necessity for more robust data security and protection of data privacy.  The proposed Bill has brought to the forefront a necessary discussion on the economic significance of data while understanding the value the proposed Regulation would bring to Sri Lanka on its path to digitization”.

The final day of the three-day series consisted of eminent speakers representing the industry who shared their insights on the industry perspective. Dr. Prasad Samarasinghe Chairman Federation of Information  Technology Sri Lanka (FITIS) and Managing Director Lanka Bell Limited, Jehan Perinpanayagam Board Director SLASSCOM, CEO Infomate (Pvt) Ltd, Kitthi Perera, Chief Executive Officer Sri Lanka Telecom PLC, Sivakrishnarajah Renganathan Managing Director Commercial Bank PLC joined the session which was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Chiranthi Balapatabendi –Director Industry Development ICTA.

Chiranthi Balapatabendi –Director Industry Development ICTA stated  “Data protection and privacy would be a prime area of concern for the ICT-BPM industry. It was interesting to note that even prior to the enactment, organisations and industries are following practices aligning with Data protection when serving their customers. I was overwhelmed by the resounding interest expressed by the Industry to embrace the bill and are keen on adopting it into their processes.”

About ICTA

The Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) of Sri Lanka is at the forefront of driving digital transformation in the Nation with a vision to make Sri Lanka a digitally inclusive country. ICTA strives to serve the Nation with effective Digital Solutions to transform the lives of Sri Lankan citizens. For more information about ICTA, visit icta.lk