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Data protection officers 'critical' to success of enterprises in digital age, says Minister S Iswaran

Stanislaus Jude Chan
Stanislaus Jude Chan • 4 min read
Data protection officers 'critical' to success of enterprises in digital age, says Minister S Iswaran
SINGAPORE (July 17): Singapore has launched the world’s first Data Protection Officer Competency Framework and Training Roadmap that combines both data protection and data innovation to provide a clear pathway for DPOs to upskill and progress in their c
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SINGAPORE (July 17): Singapore has launched the world’s first Data Protection Officer Competency Framework and Training Roadmap that combines both data protection and data innovation to provide a clear pathway for DPOs to upskill and progress in their careers.

“With this DPO Competency Framework and Training Roadmap, Singapore aims to be the provider of high quality training for DPOs in the region,” says Minister for Communications and Information, S Iswaran, as he announced the initiative at the opening of the 7th Personal Data Protection (PDP) Seminar on Wednesday.

Modelled on the SkillsFuture framework, the DPO competency framework describes a set of skills and the different proficiency levels needed for data protection officers.

The training roadmap will identify the courses that DPOs need to undergo as they advance from an entry-level proficiency to higher levels required for those with regional responsibilities.

According to Iswaran, the new framework can also serve as a guide for business owners and human resource managers to structure data protection functions and make hiring decisions.

“The framework and training roadmap will be very helpful in providing data protection officers a benchmark to improve their capabilities,” says Eric Chung, the Singapore data protection officer for DBS Bank.

“In addition, it will also help them identify training opportunities for employees and create a learning roadmap for them to grow their own timber,” he adds.

As a start, Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) is partnering the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) – supported by e2i and NTUC LearningHub – to launch a 12-month pilot programme for the deepening of data protection skills.

These data protection-related courses will be available from 4Q19, and expected to benefit at least 500 DPOs in the first year.

“Leveraging Singapore’s brand of trust, data protection can potentially be one of the key areas where Singapore and Singaporeans can set local and global standards,” says Patrick Tay, assistant secretary-general of NTUC. “This will help provide new career opportunities and career progression pathways for our workers.”

The way Iswaran explains it, data protection officers, which is mandatory for organisations to appoint under Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), are “critical to the success of every enterprise in the digital age”.

“Businesses with capable DPOs will enjoy a competitive advantage, by maximising data sharing partnerships while ensuring trust and accountability,” Iswaran says.


See: Governments play critical role in data protection, says RSA chief

The Minister on Wednesday also announced the appointment of the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) as Singapore’s accountability agent for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Cross Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) and Privacy Recognition for Processors (PRP) Systems certifications.

The systems will provide robust data protection standards to ensure that data is exchanged and used responsibly in cross border data flows.

Organisations based in Singapore can now be certified under the APEC CBPR and PRP Systems for accountable data transfers across borders to other certified organisations.

The city-state is only the third economy to operationalise the system, after the US and Japan.

PDPC says the APEC CBPR and PRP certifications will complement the IMDA’s Data Protection Trustmark certification, which was officially launched in January this year.

PDPC earlier this week launched a Guide to Accountability in personal data protection, which sees a shift in emphasis from an “increasingly impractical and insufficient” compliance-based approach towards an accountability-based approach.


See: Singapore launches new guide to promote accountability in personal data protection

“The way data is being used will continue to evolve as technological changes bring about new opportunities and complexities,” says Iswaran. “It is only through strengthening our capabilities and forming trusted connections that we can adapt and thrive in the data-driven age.”

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