By Bevan Musoko
The joint Parliamentary Committees on Peace and Security, Information Communication Technologies (ICT) and Courier Services and Information, Media and Broadcasting Services continued with public hearings on the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill at a meeting that was held at Nyamandlovu Farmers Hall on Wednesday.
Residents called for the broadening on the Bill to regulate various cyber-based activities. Nyamandlovu resident, Brian Tshuma called on Parliament to broaden provisions of the bill to cover artificial intelligence, define cyber space boundaries and criminalisation of abuse of personal information by government agencies.
Tshuma submitted to the committee that the current bill did not define cyber boundaries. He argued that the current bill was relying on physical Zimbabwean boundaries yet cyber space did not have such same boundaries. Tshuma called on Parliament to broaden the provisions of the bill to address the anomaly.
He pointed out that there was need for technology companies such as Google to protect individual reputations by deleting stories in case they get accused of criminal behaviour and are eventually acquitted in court. He argued that, in such cases, individual rights to privacy should be protected by the Bill. Tshuma urged Parliament to separate the bills into two, having a separate Cyber Security Bill and a Data Protection Bill.
In addition Tshuma called on Parliament to regulate the emerging field of artificial intelligence.
Another resident, Moses Dhliwayo urged Parliament to translate the Bill into vernacular languages for residents to understand the provisions of the Bill. Responding to Dhliwayo’s concern, the Committee’s Chairperson, Dr David Parirenyatwa apologised for the anomaly. He assured the residents that work on translating the Bill was on-going.
There was a poor attendance at the hearing as less than 40 people attended the hearing. Dhliwayo attributed the poor attendance to the fact that the public did not understand the provisions of the Bill.
The Committees are set to conclude the public hearings at a meeting in Kwekwe on Thursday. Other members of the committees were holding similar consultations in Manicaland province. Majority of Zimbabwe have voiced support for the Bill, saying it was high time for Government to regulate the use of social media platforms. There is an overriding concern that social media platforms were being abused to organise protests and mislead the public through fake news.
The Bill is set to be passed as Zanu PF enjoys a two third majority in Parliament.