Q1: How did you get here?
This journey began some 12 years ago. After my final exam at the Ghana School of Law, I began to wonder what next. National Service, pupillage and work were the obvious next steps. None of these appealed to me at that time. I yearned for adventure. Exploring the words was a very attractive thought then, and further education was my best ticket. I was looking for an interesting school with an interesting programme. University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland, caught my attention, above other schools, with LLM in Information Technology and Telecommunications Law. I returned to Ghana in 2004, wrote my thesis, and graduated in 2005. Next, what started out as as a voluntary review of the existing and draft legislation on the ICT sector opened the door to a consultancy opportunity as ICT Legal Expert under the Ministry of Communications’s “E-Ghana Project” under the aegis of the World Bank. I held this position until my appointment to the Data Protection Commission as its first Executive Director.
Q2: Who’s been the most influential person in your (legal) life?
My father, L.S.N. Akuetteh. I started off my legal career under his tutelage, and he continues to influence my career to-date. I always seek his legal advice on legal and ethical issues, as well as any general challenge in my career. Then, there’s Stanley, my son. He’s taught me life lessons in motherhood and patience. I’m proud of the amazing young man he’s become.
Q3: What do you think about chieftaincy and privilege by birth?
This is life. I don’t think we can totally abolish privilege by birth. Some people will always be born with a silver spoon in their mouths. But chieftaincy or monarchy must not be a big issue. We all have the chance to succeed because or in spite of our birth. Look around you and ask yourself where are some of your peers who you thought had it all when you were growing up. Any privileged position we inherit by birth bestows on us a higher calling to serve with a sense of obligation, restraint and humility. To whom much is given, much is expected.
Q4: What is data protection, and why is it important to the ordinary citizen?
A simple answer is that data protection hinges on the ability to guarantee the rights of people to the privacy of their person and communications. This fundamental human right is critical for people to maintain their autonomy and individuality, as well as to enable them to derive some functional benefits as human beings. Privacy strengthens our human dignity and guarantees other key values such as freedom of association and freedom of speech in our society. Privacy is therefore recognised as a fundamental human right (i.e. it forms an inherent part of our being) under the Constitution.
As individuals, we don’t share every information about ourselves with everyone. Data protection essentially ensures that those we share such information with respect our right to choose not to share the same information with other. It regulates how we collect the personal information of individuals, how we use it, and how we protect such information.
Q5: What other career-path would you have taken if you hadn’t chosen law?
Probably an artist in the visual and performing arts space. Career opportunities in the arts have always fascinated me because of the chance to express oneself in many different way. I get bored easily, and I always need something new, exciting and stimulating to do. The arts would have given me just that.
Q6: Tell us a fun, funny or interesting fact (or personal experience) that many people don’t know about you?
This is not a trick question to invade my privacy, is it? Well, I love dancing and cooking. I am far from dance-champion material, but I have easy rhythm. I also enjoy baking and decorating cakes. I love to laugh, and sometimes prank people to feed my strong need to laugh.
Q7: What do you think instinctively when you hear the word “absquatulate”?
You don’t really want an answer to this question, do you? I am a lady.
Q8: What are the functions of the Data Protection Commission?
Implementing and monitoring compliance with the data protection statute; deciding on the best way to administer its duties; investigating and adjudicating complaints of violated rights under the statute fairly; and keeping a data-protection register.
Q9: Who is (or has been or would be) your biggest mentor?
I have several of them. My father, Professor Justice Date-Bah, Her Ladyship the Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood, and many other in Ghana and elsewhere. I am obsessed with successful men and women; people who exhibit wisdom, understanding, humility, and a sense of service and dedication to work. The biggest mentor I have, however, is Jesus Christ. His life and devotion never cease to inspire and fascinate me.
Q10: What one thing would you change about the regulation of the internet in Ghana?
I don’t think the internet is regulated in Ghana. I understand your question to be about the inanimate network of standardised communication protocols rather than human activity using the internet. The nature of the internet makes it difficult (if not completely impossible) to regulate. I am yet to see any laws in Ghana that define and regulate how the internet operates. I know this may sound controversial, but I think the legislation passed over the last eight years in the ICT sector has facilitated growth and development in the use of ICT, but has not not how the internet operates. Most of the legislation touch on appropriate and inappropriate online behaviour, which may have slipped under the radar previously. I don’t see such intervention as regulating the internet. You will agree with me, for instance, that stealing, as a criminal behaviour, must be punished irrespective of the medium used for committing such crime. Would you therefore say that punishing for stealing via the internet is regulating the internet?
I would however not not much by way of regulations in the ICT landscape. I would rather call for strengthening the regulatory institutions in the sector.
Q11: And what one thing would you change about the criminal justice system?
I would advocate for more intermediate and reformatory sentences. I don’t think our current criminal justice system is reforming criminals. After serving their time, many come back into society even more dangerous. Intermediate and reformatory sentences for ‘non-hardened’ criminals is a no-brainer for better reintegration into society.
Q12: Is there any particular adversity you have faced and overcome that has shaped your life?
Several. Losing my mother in 1998 was the most significant one. It was a huge blow to me. It changed my whole orientation in life and the people I care about. I came to realise that we can live well and make the best of our lives without a lot of things, including the support and love of a mother. It made me value the things and relationships that we take for granted. My mother’s death also took me through the journey of independence and maturity. There was suddenly no room to accommodate immaturity and laziness, as I had to be there for my three younger sisters (the youngest at six years). Anyway, when it comes to adversity, I am one of those who believe that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
Q13: Is Law as important, as a career, as Finance, or the Health Sciences, or Teaching, in Ghana’s development at this time?
Yes, Law is equally important. The very existence of our humanity is based on rules and laws of nature. I won’t say any one is more important than another. All sectors equally matter when it comes to this country’s development. My experience from working on the policy implementation for the ICT sector, for instance, taught me that in creating an enabling environment, you must look at all key sectors – legal, infrastructure, agriculture, health, education, finance, etc. The fact is that it often takes an appropriate and enabling legal and regulatory framework to develop all the key sectors.
Thank you very much, Teki.
Not at all. Thank you too.