As businesses digitally transform, how they handle and analyse data is under intense scrutiny. Consumers today are more aware and concerned than ever before, and rightly so, with the way their personal data is collected, how it is handled and how it will be used.

By Elaine Wang, chief digital officer at Rectron

The introduction of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) is a necessary step to safeguard personal information within our data-flooded world. With the rise of computing power and the explosion of devices, personal information has never been at a greater risk.

Data protection is at the forefront of the minds of boards, customers, users, and regulators. The POPI Act seeks to govern how businesses handle the personal information of their customers, suppliers and staff members, or any personal information about members of the public and other companies.

Properly handled, compliance with data privacy legislation should not be a headache. In fact, more and more discerning consumers want to see that the brands they support are trustworthy and do what they say, when it comes to personal information.

There are tools that can help with compliance

If businesses are to remain relevant in today’s market, digital transformation coupled with data protection must exist at the heart of their business models. The right tools and processes can go a long way to achieve this.

For example, Microsoft 365 can help a business manage the increasing risks to data that have arisen due to remote work. The platform understands and classifies a company’s data, keeps it protected, and prevents data loss across Microsoft 365 Apps, services and more, whether it is on-premises or in the cloud.

It is important to highlight security safeguarding as perhaps the riskiest for organisations, as it speaks to their ability to protect against data breaches. With the force of cybercrime growing by the day, businesses and governments must place data protection and privacy at the top of their priority list.

Organisations need to think carefully about how protected the information they store is at any point along its flow through their business. Are databases of customers, staff and suppliers protected? Are the computers and cell phones that have access to your business data password protected? Can you identify any other risks or vulnerabilities in the security of the information?

This requires more than just adding another anti-virus product to your portfolio. It is rather about expanding a security network and educating businesses and consumers to incorporate endpoint security solutions as a part of a broader cybersecurity strategy to ensure that all data is secure and protected.

While tools will go a long way in helping organisations remain compliant, technology alone is not enough. To overcome a growing list of compliance challenges, businesses must ensure safe practices are followed throughout organisation. This requires the best of both humans and machines working together to succeed.

Why become compliant?

Being a fully compliant organisation provides the opportunity to earn the trust of clients and consumers, assuring them that the personal information that it receives, is being dealt with in terms of the law. POPI should be seen as an opportunity to identify, clean up and manage information better, and in doing so, improve business processes.

A compliant business shows customers that your organisation believes in a culture of data security and data protection. It shows that you take care of the personal information that is entrusted to you by your clients and customers.

While POPI may be in full effect, there is still a lot of confusion around it. As an ICT distributer within South Africa, it is our responsibility to assist organisations to understand the importance of POPI compliance.