by Naro Omo-osagie
The difficulty of legislating on technology is one of the unique side-effects of living in the 21st century. Considering the potential risks in leaving technology unregulated, there is a need for the law to fill in the growing gaps. Essentially, the only way to effectively regulate technology is not by crafting blanket policies which cannot subsume unprecedented inventions, but by constantly interacting with technology and identifying in real time, the legal implications of new inventions.
Some gaps between law and technology have been identified and the need to effectively regulate technology. Technology builds the future out of our world. Because of the rapidity of technological advancement, legislating on technology has always been behind. Every legal system in the world has at one point or the other struggled with finding the right answer to a question which its laws preceding the age of the internet could not anticipate.
Falling behind most of the modern world in law reform, Nigeria finds itself with the need to play catch up with global policies on technology, particularly smart technology. This is not just because national development in any case is hinged on the growth of a country’s legal system but also because of the subsuming nature of the internet ecosystem which allows technology produced anywhere to often be accessible everywhere around the world.
The legal implications of importing smart technology into a regulatory vacuum are incalculable. Every day infringements and violations of privacy on social media go unanswered. Software theft is costing programmers a fortune and applications that obtain access to specific functions in our mobile phones have become more popular (for example ‘True Caller’ which automatically uploads the names and numbers in the phone books of its users, third parties from whom consent is not obtained). Before long, we’ll have to face more terrifying implications of the international commercialization of Artificial Intelligence Robots and other things like 3D gun printing.
Our current legislations are less suitable than most to tackle the inherent problems with smart technology. With ground breaking innovations such as the Internet of Things (IoT), smart cars, smart homes and even smart cities – foreign jurisdictions have put a lot of effort into reforming laws to reflect the advancements in technology. Driverless cars have been approved for road operation in four states of the US and the District of Columbia. One of the largest transportation companies in the world, Uber has recently announced plans to partner with Mercedes and include driverless cars in their fleet. As these technological innovations occur, we are left with no option to determine questions of law arising from the extent of liability that will be attached various parties involved.
One might suggest prohibitive legislation but that would, in essence, mean doing nothing. We’d be cut out of the future if we choose not to align ourselves with technology. The World Wide Web constantly blurs the lines between cultures and continents, the world is slowly transferring its base of operations to the internet and whether or not we choose to regulate, smart technology is already part of the human experience and every day these new technologies flood the Nigerian market. For instance, the deployment of drones, for a variety of purposes ranging from videography, agriculture, delivery of goods to security and even as a recreational activity is fast becoming popular.
Ethical issues arising from Virtual Reality have also recently become trending topics in the global discourse on law and technology. There are concerns regarding the limitations of human fantasies in simulations using VR headsets such as The Oculus Rift, Jaunt, HTC Vive, One Plus, Sony PlayStation VR etc. most of which are near release or currently available in the Nigerian tech market.
The Guidelines on Data Protection 2013 (one of the policies developed by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA)) contains extensive provisions on the collection and use of personal data. However, without legislation that adequately covers the identification and registration of drones, there is no way of holding their owners financially and ethically responsible in case of injuries, violation of privacy or property damage. Such legal dilemmas will multiply with ever increasing frequency as smart technologies fan out into an ever expanding range of objects.
These regulations, along with older legislation on Telecommunications and Intellectual Property -such as the Nigerian Communications Commission Act Cap N97 LFN 2004, the Copyright Act Cap C28 LFN 2004, the Trademarks Act Cap T13 LFN 2004 and the Patents and Designs Act Cap P2 LFN 2004- make up most of our local laws on Information Technology. None of these laws have been through enough reform to incorporate the special needs of smart technology and even though some of their provisions can be applied to the internet on the most basic of levels, the whole still goes widely unregulated.
As technology shapes the future, we are called as a country, to determine how to apply our laws to even the most remote of situations. The need for a viable solution to bridge the growing gap between innovation and regulation cannot be ignored.
FG extends 2016 capital budget spending
The Accountant-General of the Federation, Alhaji Idris Ahmed has issued a circular extending the tenure of the capital elements of the 2016 Budget until May 5, 2017 or the passage of the 2017 Budget, whichever is the earliest. By this, the Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies have been urged to take note in the implementation of their budgets.
MTN pays another N30bn to Nigeria
MTN has made a payment of N30 billion ($98 million) to the Nigerian government as part of its settlement of a N330 billion fine imposed last October on the telecoms group for failing to deactivate more than 5 million unregistered SIM cards. Africa’s largest telecoms company has already paid 80 billion naira of the total amount owed. The fine is due for payment in 6 installments over 3 years. The fine was originally $5.2 billion but the fine was reduced in a settlement that paved the way for MTN to list its subsidiary on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
FG imports fibre glass grid for Abuja airport runway
The Federal Government has imported fibre glass grid system for the runway of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, currently undergoing reconstruction. The fibre glass grid system is a unique coating which offers excellent heat resistance and stability to a melting point of 900 degrees Fahrenheit. It helps to enhance runway in terms of performance and durability as well as reduce cost of maintenance. The fibre glass grid is the first of its kind in the country. The Abuja airport is undergoing repairs expected to last 6 weeks from March 8, 2017.
Nigerian Senate nods card reader and electronic voting
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the Senate has passed amendments to the 2015 Electoral Act empowering the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to use electronic voting for conduct and transmission of results in future elections. The Senate among other amendments, also legalized the Card Reader introduced by INEC for voters’ accreditation in the 2015 general election, and gave INEC powers to modify the voting process if there was any challenge.
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Editor: Chienye Nnenna Obiajulu, LL.M
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