CIPIT’s bi-annual moot competition aims to be innovative and to attract teams from across East Africa, and the 2018 edition was no exception. This year’s edition was particularly significant being the first moot in Sub-Saharan Africa to focus on Information Technology(IT) Law. The 2018 moot problem addressed the complexities of innovation, privacy and data protection in jurisdictions that operate in a legal vacuum with respect to data privacy. Therefore, participating students were able to interact with the topics of privacy and data protection and grapple with the ambiguities these cutting-edge issues pose in the legal field. This was also an excellent opportunity for CIPIT to highlight the trickle- down effect of innovations to the recurring concerns of data protection, and to nurture the interest of the young generation in IT law and policy.
Quite congruent with the tech innovation scene in Nairobi(the so-called “Silicon Savannah”), the hypothetical moot question involved the creation of a mobile app that would enable users suffering from ‘wika virus’ to better manage their health condition. A dispute arose when the developer of the app licensed it to the health ministry, after which users suddenly began receiving advertisements of drugs to treat the condition. The interplay between obligations of innovators and their licensees, and protection of health data featured heavily in the moot. Assuming responsibility was imputed on the state, one of the legal nuances was whether the actions of the state were in fact proportional to achieve the desired outcome, i.e. effectively curbing the spread of the disease. Whilst achieving health for the state outcome is understandably a pressing concern, it dawned on majority of the students participating in the moot competition that violation of the right to privacy could be too high a price to pay in the name of public health.
As such, a pioneering approach would be necessary, whilst taking account relevant laws and the facts in issue. The task was made even more difficult due to the lack of substantive data protection laws in the fictional state – a situation that mirrors the actual situation in many African nations. Evidently, the mention of the General Data Protection Regulations by students gained MacGuffin status, as many of the participants relied wholly on its provisions. Interestingly, teams that utilized the African Union Convention on Cybersecurity and Data Protection (a convention not yet in force) found that their arguments held more argumentative force.
The moot court was inexorably a learning experience for all involved, but as with any competition,there would only be one winner. Despite the valiant efforts of Strathmore University at the finals, the 2018 CIPIT Moot trophy shall continue to be held in neighboring lands for another two years, with Uganda Christian University emerging victorious (again!).
CIPIT is grateful for all the judges, participants and volunteers that made the moot such a success, and most importantly our sponsors and partners: Google, Safaricom, Kiptiness & Odhiambo Associates, Bowmans, and OpenAIR, without whom the moot would not have taken place.The theme for the 2020 CIPIT Moot is currently under development – will it be Intellectual Property Law, Information Technology Law, or some hybrid? Stay tuned!