Privacy ironman: Chukwuemeka Cameron

Privacy ironman: Chukwuemeka Cameron

The Digital Life

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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The Ironman Triathlon calls for training and endurance and a determination to stay the course to finish a gruelling series of events in one day. Chukwuemeka Cameron participated in one in 2019 and a parallel can be drawn between the event and his nearly two decades long gargantuan efforts on the cutting edge of the technology revolution. He has been standing guard on behalf of the public's need for a secure environment to house their most sensitive data.

“If we are to successfully roll out a digital society, we have to ensure that citizens' privacy rights are placed at the centre of the development of the digital society,” says Cameron.

Well aware of the significance of protecting the public's privacy rights in this technological age, Cameron completed a course in the UK to become a data protection officer.

“On my return from Holland in 2006, I started a non-profit, Unchartered Rights, whose core objectives were to preserve, inform and safeguard the personal privacy and personal information of individuals against abuse — inadvertently or otherwise — by the State and its agents and other relevant institutions. This did not get much traction as, in hindsight, it may have been a bit premature,” says Cameron.

However, the passage of the Data Protection Act confirmed the importance of the organisation's mission, driving its determination to address concerns raised in the Government's privacy regulations. Today, his company Design Privacy has partnered with tTech Limited to help companies comply with local and international privacy laws by implementing the appropriate data protection compliance programme and offering data protection officer services.

Cameron's broad experiences in the digital sphere prepared him for the crusading role he plays today. He earned a master's degree in information technology and management in the Netherlands in 2004 and attempted to commercialise his thesis on the 'Maximisation of Wealth of Jamaican Music: A Digital Alternative'. That was in the heyday of Napster and Kazaa and the early days of iTunes.

“Based on my research into digital music, business models and consumer behaviour, my paper predicted that a streaming music business model would be the pervasive way music is distributed and consumed, and this was before music streaming services existed,” Cameron recounts.

Unfortunately, the digital download business had only partial success in the Jamaican market, because there was not yet an appreciation of what would become a revolution in music sales.

“I started Digital Dubz along with a childhood friend Christopher Haddad and two others. While developing and educating the market about digital distribution, we started streaming live events to build brand credibility in the entertainment industry. We had the opportunity to stream events such as FullyLoaded, International Reggae Day and worked with Sting among other notable acts. Back in the day, streaming a live event cost $400,000. Today you [only] need mobile data or Wi-Fi. Digital Dubz was the first to stream concerts in Jamaica,” Cameron remembers.

But he was unable to replicate the success of iTunes in the Jamaican market. Reviewing the performance, Cameron points out that the creators of the music did not own their rights, and the people who held the masters did not secure the requisite rights from the creators. “Neither was there a culture which encouraged the ownership or even awareness around intellectual property rights. That led me to participate in the co-founding of what is now JaRIA [Jamaica Reggae Industry Association]. At the heart of the problem, which prevented the successful implementation of a music download, was the lack of ownership of rights,” he says.

His penchant for taking the road less travelled was also evident in his stint with C&W as a legal regulator and advisor. Cameron helped roll out ADSL, then regarded as the fastest broadband Internet service, and a significant jump from squawking dial-up. Ever forward-looking, he teamed up with techno wiz David Cassanova and business-savvy Chris Dehring, to launch Digital Interactive Services. The company obtained Jamaica's first islandwide wireless subscriber TV licence and under the ReadyTV brand recently won a government contract to deliver Internet service to rural areas of the country using satellite technology.

“Cass's vision always was to be able to deliver educational content to children in the most remote parts of Jamaica,” Cameron says of Cassanova.

He feels that this is a significant step in a long-promised revolution in communications and regards any further delay of the digital switchover as hindering the country's progress towards digitisation. “It is unfortunate to watch the retardation of the development of the digital broadcast space and observe the Government of the day unwittingly disenfranchising Jamaicans from the benefits of digital broadcasting,” he says.

Cameron harkens back to when C&W was the monopoly telco provider and fears that further government delay would be a repetition. “I wonder if this broadcasting minister will take the bold step Philip Paulwell took [when he was in the role] and democratise broadcasting and mandate the digital switchover,” he quips.

It's further confirmation of Cameron's ironman will to help Jamaica harness technology while championing users' right to privacy.

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