By Nerissa Golden
BRADES, Montserrat (GIU) -- Montserrat’s Attorney General’s Chambers under the leadership of Attorney General Esco Henry are working on new E-legislation that would help to solidify the island’s move towards a modern and innovative nation as outlined in its new National ICT Strategy and Implementation Plan.
During the first National ICT Day held on Monday, the attorney general spoke to attendees about the relevance of the Info-Communications Act and E-legislation that must be put in place to support the National ICT plan.
The National ICT Plan, which was launched at the event, envisages that the Attorney General’s Chambers will assist with formulation of policies which underpin the plan; draft relevant legislation based on instructions issued by the lead Ministry of Communications and Works; and review and advise on the preparation of agreements and MOUs between government and its partners.
The attorney general noted that on pages 58 and 59 of the plan, a number of pieces of legislation which would need to be enacted to provide the right legal environment around which electronic transactions will be effected; crimes detected and prosecuted are identified. These as listed are: E-waste legislation; computer misuse laws; electronic transactions act; data protection and privacy laws; cybercrime laws; intellectual property laws; exchequer and audit (electronic payments); and child protection laws.
“There are currently no laws on our statute books addressing e-waste, computer misuse, data protection and privacy, cybercrime or child protection in relation to internet usage. Those five areas will therefore have to be tackled as we take steps to plug the gaps in our legislative framework,” Henry noted. “The legislative drafters within the Attorney General’s Chambers will work closely and diligently with the lead Ministry of Communications and Works to formulate the policy in each of these areas and within the resources available seek to have the laws drafted in a timely manner.
Montserrat passed its Electronic Transactions Act in December 2009. The attorney general stated that it “contains 42 sections which provide broadly for the establishment of the legal principles applicable to the conduct of e-commerce, the processing, verification and attribution of electronic records, the approval, registration and liabilities of service providers and also establishes a system for the regulation of processors of personal data. The Act gives legal recognition to electronic records. It also empowers the Cabinet to make regulations covering areas such as data protection, protection of privacy, different standards to be applied in respect of personal data originating from different countries, enabling the Minister to grant approvals, to persons who are providing information security services in Montserrat or are proposing to do so. To date no regulations have been made under the Act.”
Cabinet is also empowered under the Act to appoint the e-Business Advisory Board comprising persons who appear to Cabinet to be knowledgeable and experienced about electronic business, the Internet, E-Commerce, technology law or electronic transactions in order to advise the minister on the discharge of the minister’s functions under this act. This is yet to be done, she noted.
The attorney general added that the island’s intellectual property laws are in need of revision to update them and by incorporating aspects of the law which would facilitate negotiations and transaction of business in a fully electronic and legally sound environment.
Spearheaded by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Montserrat now has a Payment Systems Act No. 5 of 2008 which makes provision for electronic payments. This act was uniformly established in all ECCU member countries. It establishes the legal platform to accommodate electronic payments regionally within the ECCU.
“There is accordingly no legal impediment to processing of electronic payments,” she noted.
Montserrat also has the Info-Communications Act No. 4 of 2009 which was passed in April of that year and seeks to among other things: encourage competitive markets for info-communications networks and services, include conditions for fair competition in such markets; facilitate the orderly development of an info-communications system that serves to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the national, social, cultural and economic well being of the society; and promote and protect the interests of the public by promoting access to info-communications services delivered over technology platforms.
The attorney general noted that they were limited in the number of legislative drafters available in her office and were working to ensure that they cleared the backlog of new acts and revisions which needed to be done in line with Montserrat’s new Constitution Order of 2010 as well as support the new National ICT Strategy and Implementation Plan.