Uganda Passes Cyber Laws

Computing

Uganda's Parliament has passed into law the electronic transactions and electronic signature bills that will improve the regulations for security of electronic transactions and devices. Until now, Ugandans have been engaged in online transactions have been at the mercy of the other seller is something goes wrong. Also, the incidence of online fraud committed by Ugandans defrauding other unsuspecting Ugandans is on the rise and the new pieces of legislation be used to check that.

The electronic transactions and electronic signatures bills provide legal regulations for the use of electronic signatures, and criminalize unauthorized access. "There is now going to be legal recognition for some of the things we already do electronically," James Wire, a technology consultant said. "People have been transacting on the mercy of the laws of other countries, but such transactions will now be recognized by the laws of Uganda."

Wire said one can now sign a document electronically and it is recognized by the Uganda judicial system, which has not been the case. This he said will give especially foreign investors confidence to do things electronically in Uganda.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) State Minister, Alintuma Nsambu told Parliament the day before the laws were passed that advancements in information technology require a conducive and enabling environment for the users and beneficiaries.He said the national information and communication technology policies need revision following the adoption of information technology in consumer purchases, mass marketing, financial transactions and government services.

The two cyber laws provide tough penalties for offenders. Companies and individuals involved in cyber crime may be de-licensed and if charged in court risk serving up to three years in prison. However, the Computer Misuse Bill still remains before parliament. It is not yet clear why this particular piece of legislation was not passed.

The purpose of these laws is to guide and regulate the ICT sector so as to create a level ground and condusive environment for doing business using electronic means. Examples include consumer purchases online, mass marketing, financial transactions, online information, entertainment and government services.

Draft bills for the three were developed by the Uganda Law Reform Commission while another law; the Securities and Central Depositories Bill was developed by the Uganda Ministry of Finance. The five member states of the East African Community (EAC) are also coordinating efforts to harmonise and pass cyber crime laws that would be effective across the five countries. A common information security policy on cyber crime formulated by East African countries will serve as a foundation for new laws.

When passed, the new laws will allow member countries to prosecute cyber criminals despite where the crime was committed within EAC region. However, progress has been slow in all the five countries but the fact Uganda has passed these laws should give traction to the process.

Harmonizing cyber laws among the partner states (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda) will strengthen their regional integration and support the implementation of the e-government program initiated by the EAC secretariat in 2005.