Ndemo team gets 180 million shillings for data migration study

Economy

Ndemo team gets 180 million shillings for data migration study


Bitange Ndemo, an academic from the University of Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • University of Nairobi researcher Bitange Ndemo is part of an international research team that has been awarded a €1.4 million (180 million shillings) grant to examine regulations on data collection and migration health from Africa.
  • Professor Ndemo will work with Professors Sharifah Sekalala (Warwick Law School) and Pamela Andanda (University of the Witwatersrand).
  • The trio will examine ways to build regulatory solutions around health data migration, with a focus on Kenya, Uganda and South Africa.

University of Nairobi researcher Bitange Ndemo is part of an international research team that has been awarded a €1.4 million (180 million shillings) grant to examine regulations on data collection and migration health from Africa.

Dubbed “There’s no app for that!” Regulating the Migration of Health Applications in Sub-Saharan Africa”, the grant was awarded under the Mobility – Global Medicine and Health Research program.

Mobile apps have become an essential tool as most industries digitize their operations. Their popularity, however, comes at a cost.

Results from a pilot research project conducted by the team show that most health apps are owned and operated by foreign companies. Consequently, the health data captured by these applications migrates to developed countries. This data migration is either poorly regulated or unregulated.

It is estimated that the health data of more than 40 million Africans is “harvested” by Western digital companies each year in what researchers call “digital colonialism”. This data ends up benefiting outsiders, they argue.

Professor Ndemo will work with Professors Sharifah Sekalala (Warwick Law School) and Pamela Andanda (University of the Witwatersrand). The trio will examine ways to build regulatory solutions around health data migration, with a focus on Kenya, Uganda and South Africa.

They will also work with civil society organizations, app developers and regulators to co-create guidelines for data regulation.

Professor Ndemo said there was an urgent need to interrogate emerging concepts in health apps. He added, “The funding comes at the right time as there is a growing list of health centers in Africa, especially those building health portfolios that will have a long-term effect on African populations.”

Organizers say the project will highlight global inequalities associated with health data migration while promoting fair approaches to data collection and processing.

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Sean N. Ayres