Google Launches $1M Fund to Support Innovative Ideas on Data Privacy in Sub-Saharan Africa

Google has launched a $1m pan-African fund to support innovative ideas that promote privacy, trust and internet safety in sub-Saharan Africa. The fund was announced during the 16th annual Safer Internet Day in Abuja.

NITDA Launches Investigation into Truecaller service over Potential Privacy breach
Google has created a $1m pan-African fund to support data privacy innovation in sub-Saharan Africa

Speaking on the launch, the Head of Brand and Reputation at Google Africa, Mojolaoluwa Aderemi-Makinde explained that the funds will be administered by a third-party partner. She added that the application criteria and the deadline for applying for the fund will be released soon

“The fund will be administered by a third-party partner on behalf of Google.org, and we will be sharing details on application criteria and deadlines soon,”

Mojolaoluwa Aderemi-Makinde, the Head of Brand and Reputation at Google Africa

Privacy in Africa

In the last decade, Africa has been the fastest-growing region in internet use in the world. However, more than half of Africa’s countries have no data privacy or protection laws.

In Nigeria, the is no principal data protection law but there are subsidiary data protection legislation like the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation released in 2019 and the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, which touch on data protection in the telecommunication industry.

Google Launches Data Privacy Fund For Innovative Ideas in Sub-Saharan Africa
Africa is the fastest-growing region in internet use in the world

Rising privacy concerns

Following the Facebook data breach in which data mining company, Cambridge Analytica harvested the information of millions of people, there has been increasing spotlight on data protection right across the world with the EU upgrading its the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Africa was also affected, as there was an allegation that Cambridge Analytica also mined data in Nigeria and Kenya. Similarly, Truecaller was recently accused of privacy breaches regarding the collection of data by regulatory bodies in Nigeria.

Privacy Protection is on the increase

Over the past few months, major tech companies have been dropping data protection features and upgrading their privacy laws. In December, Twitter updated its global privacy policy to improve user privacy.

Google has also added new features to protect data browsing and plans to drop third party cookies that allow the sharing of user data to increase privacy protection.

Innovative ideas that can protect privacy in Africa

Apart from increasing privacy protection laws, there are innovative solutions that can help improve data protection especially in the region where effacement of data laws is pretty lax.

Google Launches Data Privacy Fund For Innovative Ideas in Sub-Saharan Africa
Jumbo helps manage all your privacy in one app

There are data privacy apps like Jumbo that can manage privacy settings on social media apps like Facebook as well as Google search data. For Jumbo, all the data processing takes place on the users’ phone. This means that Jumbo doesn’t have any information about the users because the app doesn’t communicate with a server.  

Secure end to end encryption already exists and messaging apps like WhatsApp using it. There is however, a new technology that aims to also encrypt user data from the messaging app itself. This will mean that apps like WhatsApp won’t be able to access any information you input into the platforms.

However, as the increasing penetration of internet boosts tech and employment opportunities in Africa, especially through the emergence of Fintech and e-commerce, the need for laws like GDPR and innovative initiatives to help protect the data of Nigerians and Africans at large becomes more important.

The new fund by Google is a welcome boost to help inspire data privacy startups to provide more innovative solutions that will grow data protection in the region.


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