March 11, 2024

#FichaUchi: Insights from Focus Group Discussions on Data Protection

In 2023, the Ficha Uchi Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) covered 9 counties, aiming to delve deeper into citizens’ perceptions of personal data. This is what we learned.

In East Africa, especially in Kenya, the progression of data protection regulations has often trailed behind more developed regions. Despite the notable advancement with the enactment of the Kenya Data Protection Act in 2019, concerns persist regarding its enforcement and effectiveness. While it signifies progress, the act’s execution and enforcement mechanisms are still evolving, leaving gaps in safeguarding individuals’ data rights.

Last year, our second phase of the data protection awareness campaign unfolded, both online and offline, extending the conversation to grassroots levels. The Ficha Uchi Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) covered nine counties, aiming to delve deeper into citizens’ perceptions of personal data. Building upon insights from the initial campaign phase, which revealed challenges in citizens’ understanding of “data,” we sought more nuanced discussions to gauge awareness of existing data protection laws and entities like the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.

Focus group discussion in Kakamega

We noticed a number of things as we asked them to share their views and experiences:

Online Scams

The FGDs revealed that scams are widespread. Participants shared stories of deception and manipulation online, from fake job offers to exploiting personal relationships. Scammers act without fear of punishment, targeting those who are unaware or easily taken advantage of. Despite the common occurrence of these scams, many victims choose not to speak out due to feelings of embarrassment or a lack of confidence in law enforcement’s ability to help.


Participants expressed a profound sense of powerlessness in controlling their personal data. In exchange for services or conveniences, individuals often find themselves coerced into giving away sensitive information, creating a cycle of vulnerability and exploitation. Terms and conditions, shrouded in legalese and obscurity, serve as barriers to informed consent, leaving users exposed to the whims of data collectors.

Trust issues and Complex Legal Systems

Participants showed a lack of trust in the authorities. They believed that social media platforms were better at delivering justice. Fear of retaliation and ineffective systems stopped people from seeking legal help, allowing data breaches and privacy violations to go unpunished. While some knew about their data rights, they doubted that police or the legal system could offer them help and solutions.

Education and Advocacy 

Despite challenges, participants saw hope in education and advocacy. They stressed the importance of easy-to-access awareness campaigns about data protection. They called for partnerships between government, civil society, and youth groups. They also suggested teaching data literacy in schools as a way to instill a sense of responsibility for data from an early age.

Reflecting on the insights gained from these discussions, it’s clear that safeguarding our digital identities isn’t just up to individuals—it’s something we must all prioritize. From tackling scams to improving understanding of data, we need collective action to navigate the complexities posed by safeguarding citizens’ personal data. 

Ficha Uchi Phase 3 in Kilifi County

Our third phase of the Ficha Uchi digital campaign is currently underway in Uganda and Tanzania. Back home in Kenya, building upon the success of previous digital awareness activities, we aim to focus our efforts in Kilifi County. Our objective is to understand the underlying reasons why citizens may feel powerless about safeguarding their data. Arising from focus group discussions and radio shows conducted during the last campaign phase, many citizens remain unaware of the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner and its role in safeguarding their data. Additionally, the fear of being denied access to essential platforms, services, or products often prompts individuals to surrender their data.

In light of the community’s active engagement with radio segments during the previous Ficha Uchi phase, we intend to utilize community radio and various physical engagements to directly engage with communities.

These objectives aim to address identified challenges and gaps in understanding, empower citizens, and foster a culture of data protection within Kilifi County. These discussions serve as a poignant reminder of the profound impact of data protection on our lives. As we confront future challenges, let’s heed the lessons learned and strive for a digital landscape where privacy is valued, and individuals are empowered to assert control over their personal data.

These discussions remind us of the profound impact data protection has on our lives. As we face future challenges, let’s learn from these discussions and work towards a digital environment where privacy is respected, rights are upheld, and everyone feels safe online and offline.

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