The director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kasihfu Abdullahi, has urged the Lagos State Ministry of Health to fully adopt the implementation of all provisions in the Nigerian Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) to protect the medical data of the residents of the state.
He made the call when he paid a working visit on the state commissioner for health, Prof. Akinola Abayomi, where the issue of implementation of the NDPR for the Lagos health sector was discussed yesterday in Lagos.
He commended the commissioner and his team on the proactive, professional dispositions and approach in which the state handled and disseminated public information during the Coronavirus pandemic crisis.
“Beyond any iota of doubt, our recovery as a nation from coronavirus cannot be told without special mention of the work you and your team did and are still doing to keep us safe,” he said.
In the 4th Industrial Revolution where big data, artificial intelligence, internet of things and blockchain technology are the key indices and parameters driving economy globally, the NITDA boss said there was need to review and improve on the credibility of datasets in health care, a sector which is data driven, adding medical informatics and data are the bedrock of clinical medicine and research.
Abdullahi said the NDPR, a regulation issued by NITDA to protect data privacy and coordinate safe exchange of personal data was built on all the international principles of data protection such as accuracy, limitation of use, security, confidentiality, availability and integrity of data.
According to him, it is a subsidiary law which limits abuse of power by data controllers as data subjects determine how their data should be handled.
He reiterated that it is imperative to re-orientate health workers in the state on the importance of data privacy and proper disposal of medical wastes to avoid personal sample details being exposed to wrong persons.
He, however, contended that the full implementation of the NDPR would cost human, time and material resources but said the resultant benefits could not be overemphasized, adding it is a process that would yield multiple dividends eventually.
“I give an illustration in which a recent study showed that about $100 billion would be saved by adopting internet of things (IoT) in healthcare. When you consider other technology inputs such as telemedicine, genetic research, electronic medical records, it would be obvious that healthcare would be one of the most technology intensive sectors in a few short years.
“By adopting and implementing the NDPR, you have begun the journey to a better and more appropriate use of technology in the healthcare sector. Lagos State would benefit a lot if people understand that the state health sector values personal data and makes efforts to protect it. This alone, would boost health tourism and improve the quality of care in the state,” he added.
In his response, Abayomi expressed confidence that the privacy of sensitive data in Nigeria which is under the supervision of NITDA is in excellent hands, adding the state ministry of health, as custodian of the Lagos State Smart Health Information Platform, has ensured that their clients and partners are NDPR compliant in order to deliver an excellent and transparent service.
“We will continue to work very hard with NITDA to stick with the guidelines which have been propagated by the agency,” he added.