By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Enhanced data and intellectual property rights protection will be "critical" to expanding The Bahamas' digital economy, a senior Chamber of Commerce executive advocated yesterday.
Royann Dean, the Chamber's Digital Transformation Committee chair, told Tribune Business that while regulatory regimes exist for both areas they have not always been fully enforced.
Data and innovative ideas are rapidly becoming the most valuable, as well as sensitive, assets for most companies as the world increasingly shifts to a digital economy, and Ms Dean said it was vital that corporate Bahamas have confidence that there is recourse in the event of breaches and/or theft.
"Historically speaking we have not done a good job enforcing the laws on the books," she added in relation to intellectual property rights, which protect innovations and original creative ideas from being copied or stolen. "But it's important for us to recognise it's a big part of expanding the digital economy along with data protection."
Acknowledging that The Bahamas possesses a Data Protection Act, along with a regulator in the shape of a Data Protection Commissioner, Ms Dean said: "That is going to be a critical part, which is separate but in line with intellectual property. Legislation is on the books, but it is a matter of how it is enforced.
"It's important that, if a company believes they have been violated, they know there are avenues that can be pursued. These are two critical components to expanding the economy in that [digital] way."
Ms Dean spoke out after the Chamber formally released its "position paper" on the digital economy, which called for the prosecution of all who violated intellectual property rights and consumer data.
"The nature of the digital economy blurs the lines between goods and services. The virtual, borderless nature of its commercial activities frequently are based on the creativity of service providers who provide value through their intellectual property," the Chamber paper said.
"The protection of the intellectual property of Bahamian companies is paramount to grow the local digital economy and encourage cross-border trade. The prosecution of those who violate these protections should be enforced."
Similarly, with data protection, the private sector body added: "Consumer data protection should take a customised approach according to the industry, and depend on what is needed for that industry to operate efficiently and to realise the benefits of digital transformation for its consumers.
"However, the protection of that data should have a consistent approach that encourages the private sector adoption of data protection policies and clearly communicates the penalties of ignoring those policies. The Chamber will support the advancement of a national cyber security framework throughout the private and public sector in The Bahamas, and the prosecution of those who violate these protection policies."
The Chamber said digital economy regulation must foster a climate that drives entrepreneurship, innovation and foreign direct investment (FDI) in The Bahamas, while establishing the provision of Internet and telecommunications infrastructure "as strategic priorities".
It added: "The digital economy should be a fair and equitable environment, enabled by payment infrastructure that makes online digital payment transactions equally accessible to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) without burdensome costs or implementation challenges.
"The Chamber supports less complex and less expensive infrastructure that protects consumer data, and will support the adoption of - and access to - digital services offered by the private sector, with an emphasis on SMEs and MSMEs."