Heeding the outcries of many Kenyans, the president recently refused to sign the controversial ICT Bill 2022. In 2016, the first ICT Practitioner’s bill was introduced into parliament. However, it did not go far and was rejected due to repetitiveness. Again in 2018, the bill resurfaced but without success. It seems that the third time’s a charm as the bill was reintroduced again this year and passed. This new bill doesn’t seem to differ much from its predecessors as it has raised an uproar among the citizens and received criticism from all ends.
Its main aim is to provide for the training, registration, and licensing of ICT practitioners and to establish the ICT practitioners Institute which will regulate the professional practice of ICT practitioners. With the bill requiring ICT practitioners to be registered by the institute, the next question that comes to mind is what qualifies one for registration? Section 19 provides that a person shall be eligible for registration if:
These persons shall apply to the registrar for registration and pay the prescribed fee for the same. If the person holds all the necessary qualifications, they shall be registered and issued a certificate to that effect. The names of the persons so registered shall be published in the Kenya gazette. Over and above this, such persons shall only practice as ICT practitioners on their behalf or be employed, after they have been issued a valid practice license by the council. This license shall be valid for an annual duration. This presents a problem as the wording of the section stipulates that such duration shall be from 1st January to 31st December, rather than twelve months beginning at any point of the year. ICT firms are also required to be incorporated, have registered business names, and have at least one partner or principal shareholder who is an ICT practitioner and has a valid license.
These bureaucracies seem to be counterproductive to solving the problem of youth unemployment currently ravaging the country. This is because up to now, all one has needed to get into the ICT sector has been a laptop and expertise in the area they wish to endeavor in. If this bill is passed into law, it will make it much more difficult and expensive for the youth and other persons who wish to enter this field. Moreover, it will also limit innovation and inventions in the field of ICT.
Lessons from other Jurisdictions
In the USA, laws regulating ICT practitioners are not restricting as such, and as a result the country has developed to be the most technologically advanced country in the world. The Federal Acquisition Regulation that guides the acquisition of services by federal agencies precludes such government agencies from describing any minimum or educational requirements when soliciting IT personnel. Instead, it establishes a criterion for performance-based acquisition. The aftermath of such favorable policies is an ICT inclusive sector whereby people thrive on a performance-based basis. A good example is the newly appointed Chief Information Security Officer at Meta Guy Rosen who dropped out of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the first year and now runs a multi-billion dollars tech company.
China on the other hand is among the leading countries in ICT with a tech market that was projected to reach 8.1 trillion by 2021, and which contributes to 55% of China’s GDP. This growth has been augmented by the existing favorable policies. The government has put in place policies such as the integration of ICT in education where children are taught and trained in ICT from their elementary studies to their higher studies. There exist no laws that restrict persons from practicing in the ICT sector while the related laws such as the Cybersecurity Act incorporate the least restrictive measures to avoid barring innovation.
Now that the ball on the ICT Bill is back at the Legislator’s court, it is high time that they borrow from the more innovative countries and make changes to the Bill. Such changes should seek to attain a balance between promoting professionalism in the ICT Sector and enhancing innovativeness and growth in the ICT Sector.
Amka Africa Justice Initiative