Last week, Kenya’s parliament passed the controversial Information, Communication Technology (ICT) Practitioners Bill 2020. This is a bill that has found its way back to parliament time and time again despite being rejected in 2016, 2018 and 2020. It seeks to regulate people who make use of technology in order to collect, process, use or send out information on behalf of others for a fee.
The issue of conflict stems from the manner in which parliament wishes to fulfill this objective. The bill states that in order for one to be an ICT practitioner in Kenya, they must have acquired a university degree or diploma or completed a training program accepted by the council of the ICT practitioners institute. Moreover, practitioners will be expected to pay a fee before being registered as certified practitioners.
The fact that one must have a degree or some form of recognized education is a cause of fear for many ICT practitioners. This stems from the fact that many ICT practitioners in Kenya are self-taught. This is not surprising considering it is now possible for people to teach themselves using various social media platforms such as YouTube where people can share videos on how to accomplish various technical tasks. It is therefore unfair for the government to lock out such individuals. Many Kenyans have gone on to Twitter and other social media platforms to voice their opposition to the bill. Many argued that platforms such Microsoft would not have existed if their governments had locked out their creators simply because they were uneducated.
Ordinary citizens were not the only ones to have aired their distaste for the bill. Politicians such Raila Odinga ( leader of the Azimio la Umoja Party) and Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru have also publicly rejected the bill and have appealed to President Uhuru Kenyatta to not sign it. They both argue that if the bill is made into law, then many Kenyans will lose their jobs. Moreover, many bright individuals who could have made a difference in the ICT sector will be locked out due to such stringent requirements.
Despite opposition, MPs supporting the bill continue to argue that the bill will help to reduce the number of frauds in the industry, thus benefitting the country in the long run. Moreover, there are ICT experts such as Dr. Shem Ochuodho who support the bill. He argues that bill will benefit the country and the only people who are against the bill are those who have benefitted from the lack of structure in the ICT sector thus far.
As it stands, the bill has already been forwarded to President Kenyatta for assent. Under Kenyan law the president has 14 days to either accept or reject the bill while providing his reservations to parliament. However, due to elections fast approaching, parliament officially closed until further notice last week Thursday. This was done immediately after passing the bill hence it will be very difficult for the president to reject the bill. It is not clear how the president will communicate his reservations, if any, and if he fails to do so within the stipulated 14 days then the bill will be automatically made into law in accordance with article 116 of Kenya’s Constitution.