My name is Milton Louw and I am a social entrepreneur that has been developing a central register of data for Namibia since 1993. As a student of computer science and statistics I was interested in developing an economic modeling system to assist my country through the first years after Independence in 1990. At present, this personal data register includes over 1 million records, or over half the population. This comes from public information such as electoral rolls, land registers, etc. and is freely available.
In 1999, I started a partnership with Creditreform Düsseldorf Frormann KG to develop a proposal for an integrated central register of personal and business data that would assist Government and the financial services industry provide better services to the people and businesses. The collection of data has continued over the 12 year period and we have met with various government officials to explain the benefits. However, the understanding of how to implement the technology has been lacking. (The business register has been our main focus and consists of over 11,000 businesses.)
Since 2010, I have read with interest the work the World Economic Forum (WEF), has been doing in regards of personal data and its impact in the world today. The WEF, has started discussing personal data as a new asset class and in its most recent report: “Rethinking Personal Data: Strengthening Trust” they suggest four main steps to be taken, namely:
Engage in a structured, robust dialogue to restore trust in the personal data ecosystem. The debate needs to focus on achieving consensus on some of the key tensions, including securing and protecting data, developing accountability systems, and agreeing on rules for the trusted and permissioned flow of data for different contexts. Central to this dialogue is the inclusion of individuals, who play an increasingly important role as both data subjects and as data creators.
Develop and agree on principles to encourage the trusted flow of personal data. The simple slogan of “think globally, act locally” can help frame these principles (i.e. shared principles can help all the actors aim towards the same outcomes, even if their approaches for how to get there differ).
Develop new models of governance for collective action. Regulators, organizations and individuals can play complementary roles in establishing accountability systems, enforcement mechanisms, rights and permissions.
Establish “living labs”. Given the complex social, commercial, technical and regulatory uncertainties and interdependencies, an environment which can provide stakeholders with the ability to test and learn in real time (and at scale) needs to be established. These labs can provide a safe context for more fully understanding the system dynamics and collectively identifying shared opportunities, risks and the means for effective collaboration.
I would like to offer my databases and experiences in Namibia to a research organisation or team, to use in establishing a “living lab” on a country-wide scale.