Electronic Transaction Law Proposed

If the electronic voting machines (EVMs), which will be used during this year’s national elections, are data-dependent then there is a need for the country to pass the Electronic Transaction Bill, a local legal practitioner told New Era yesterday.

Electronic law experts are weary on how evidence will be treated or stored during the elections and warned that should challenges arise from stakeholders such as the electorate and political parties, the existing Computer Evidence Act of 1985 may not be sufficient to deal with them.

“If the electronic voting machines are data dependent then we seriously need to consider passing the Electronic Transaction Law because data-dependency heightens the risk aspect. As soon as you deal with operative mechanisms that deals with data processing the legal complications arise,” said Gordon Elliott, an electronic law expert who was previously the coordinator on the development of e-laws for Namibia.

The draft bill is still at a consultancy stage and still needs to go for legal drafting, Attorney General’s comments and to the Cabinet Committee on Legislature before heading to parliament.

Elliott also warned that the use of data requires the consideration of risks associated with the communication of data, adding that “communication points can cause complications and therefore the law can provide principles that can allow complications to be resolved should the need arise.”

Elliott, said the absence of an Electronic Transaction Law should not be seen as basis to prevent the use of electronic voting machines, but authorities must explain clearly the operating nature of electronic voting machines.

“We need to consider that there are many electronic equipment that are not data dependent, therefore more clarity in this regard with regards to the nature of voting machines is required,” he said.

Elliott gave an example of commercial banks, which provides their clients with facilities to make banking transactions online in the absence of the Electronic Transaction Law.

“Although no problems have so far surfaced with mobile transactions, we need to deal with it at one stage or another,” said Eliot, who last year also formed part of team that made changes to the draft bill before it was submitted to the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.

“Of course we have the common law which we can use should problems arise in the absence of the electronic transaction law, but that part of the common law is not well-developed and that actually heightens the risk,” he said.

Ministry of Information and Communication Permanent Secretary Mbeuta Ua-Ndjarakana, in an interview with New Era yesterday, said government is hoping to pass the law during the course of this year and also indicated that, “even in the absence of that law we will still go ahead with the use of the voting machines and hope that everything goes accordingly.”

“Cabinet, which is the policy making body, approved the acquisition of those machines, but when the law is eventually passed, all the concerns will be taken into consideration” said the permanent secretary.

“We cannot stop progress because we do not have a law in place,” said the permanent secretary.

Source : New Era