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[Interview] Lean data practices can help mitigate risks for Kenyan SMEs, says Mozilla’s Noémie Hailu


Three weeks ago, Mozilla unveiled a Lean Data Practices (LDP)course for SMEs and startups in Kenya to increase their awareness and capabilities on the use and management of data collected in their day-to-day business operations.

The online course will be hosted on Udemy, an open-source online courses provider, and is designed for startups and SMEs who lack adequate knowledge about data privacy and security when handling personal information for customers/clients. 

Mozilla is largely known for the Firefox browser and has also been a big champion of data privacy, equal access, and free expression. The company employs what it’s calling lean data practices framework. 

‘’It’s a business tool. It’s a framework that can help you to craft better privacy policies and better security policies around data handling, ‘’ Noémie Hailu, Program Manager, Africa Innovation at Mozilla shared in an interview with TechTrends Media. 

Noémie says lean data practices help to increase brand trust and mitigate risks and it’s focused around three principles. The first one is around engaging your audience. How transparent are you, how much information does your audience have about your data collection processes? The second is around staying lean. How much data you’re collecting, why are you collecting it? The third one is around security, building security around how you’re collecting your data and how you’re managing your data and your internal policies.

Why was it so important for Mozilla to develop the LDP course? I ask.

‘’We framework and it’s something we would present in different spaces around the world, but we wanted to make it something that is very tangible and concrete. And that’s why we went around creating the course itself,’’ she says. 

We took the framework and created various modules and now it lives currently on the Udemy platform. And to take it a step beyond that, we wanted to make sure that we’re targeting the right audiences, people who would really benefit from this course, ‘’ she adds.

Noémie notes that Mozilla is piloting the LDP course in Kenya for a variety of reasons, a large one being Kenya is where their firm has a really large number of partners that are helping to inform them about the strategy, what’s happening on the ground and what the ecosystem looks like

‘’Our program and strategy is informed by what our partners are saying. it’s not the other way around. We’re not coming from San Francisco, where we’re headquartered and saying, this is what we think makes sense.  We’re listening to our partners and then trying to bring Mozilla’s possible value.’’ she says. 

Kenya has a really vibrant ecosystem according to Noémie. ‘’There’s a really great startup scene here, really great innovations and some of the basics like infrastructure to be able to do really interesting, exciting programming here. And that’s why we’re kicking it off in Kenya to start. ‘’

With the LDP Course, Mozilla is first targeting local startups and SMEs within the tech space. The lean data practice itself like checklists and exercises and resources that Mozilla includes in the course can actually be applied across any type of industry. 

Data Privacy concerns in Africa

Staying lean means minimising the data that one requires and collects. There are, however, concerns across the region about organisations abusing data. In fact, a recent study conducted by WorldWideWorx and commissioned by global technology company Zoho revealed that only 36% of Kenyan businesses are aware of privacy laws governing their marketing activities. This is despite the Data Protection Act (DPA) being in effect since 2019.

‘’Some of this may be due to a lack of awareness,’’ Noémie says. ‘’But, you know, if you, in this case, know of Kenyan companies that are sharing data essentially illegally, there are really serious implications.’’

‘’If you have a database with medical information or other types of information for vulnerable populations, and then that information is at risk of being leaked or hacked, it can actually put people’s lives at risk. So beyond just being a best practice for business, it’s actually a fundamental right for users.

The purpose of collecting data Noémie therefore says, should always be centred around the value that businesses or organisations are trying to provide through their services or product. 

‘’And so if you’re collecting data that doesn’t immediately, indirectly,  centre around that, then it’s really important to think it through,’’ she concludes. 

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Nixon Kanali

Tech journalist based in Nairobi. I track and report on tech, business and African startups. Founder and Editor For TechTrendsKE. Nixon is also the East African tech editor for Africa Business Communities. Send tips to nkanali@techtrendske.co.ke.

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