It is already hard enough running a legitimate technology hinged business in Kenya, even at a time when we know that smart and sustainable deployment of tech will deliver dividends across all industry sectors in our bid to attain Vision 2030 and beyond. Then from the blindside comes a bill – The Information Communication Technology Practitioners Bill, 2016 in the Kenya Gazette Supplement No. 84 dated 7th June 2016 that is so utterly ridiculous that line by line it shakes those actively invested in building actual services and products to the core.
The bill in summary is pushing for an act of parliament to provide for the training, registration, licensing, practice and standards of ICT practitioners and for connected purposes. My issues here are three fold.
- First, the definition of ICT practice can be broadly interpreted as covering all manifestations of technology use by Kenyans where it is done for a fee or gain either in kind or cash.
- Second, it calls for the paid registration of everyone who would fall under this umbrella as an ICT practitioner where terms like legally qualified or duly qualified ICT practitioner would start floating about with a baseline requirement of diploma or degree in an ICT related field. The benefits to those registered remain unclear.
- Third is the registration of an ICT Practitioners Institute that will be home to a curated council that will among other things determine the fees to be charged by ICT practitioners and firms for professional services rendered from time to time, a virtual impossibility given the bespoke nature of technology based solutions. Price control is a no go! The council may also refuse to issue or renew a license at its discretion.
There are many other salient issues that cannot be raised or addresses conclusively here but we need to act.
Every bill that is pushed has a sponsor and an agenda and this reads like a tenderprenuer template that will allow the all-powerful and curated council to vet and approve as practitioners those who would in simple terms be friendlies, read kickbacks and alignment.
While it may have been crafted with good intentions, it may have been by a clueless cohort who have never put in their time in the trenches to really get a grasp of what “enabling environment” and “standards” would portend to for a government looking to grow the knowledge economy and making us net exporters of value. Or by deliberate schemers who want to own the “cookie jar” knowing the place and value of tech. The latter more likely as it is a privately sponsored bill.
A private member can get a bill sponsored in the August House and it goes through the first reading and then is passed to the ICT committee. At this stage, there is a legal requirement to have stakeholder engagement and after that process is completed, the bill goes for a second reading and eventually a third reading and then goes to the president. This are all safeguards put in the law to ensure at every stage there is room to review or reject a Bill.
Through all available means and channels; KEPSA’s Presidential Roundtable, KITOS, TESPOK, KAM ICT Subsector lobby initiatives, physical picketing, online activism and discourse, this bill must not be allowed to pass in its current spirit and form. “The parliamentary committee on ICT will meet next week to review any feedback received thus far and then call for stakeholder input and further determine the time required to get feedback.”
There are far more important interventions that we should entrench legally and drive enforcement for that would be of true benefit to anything powered by technology.