Over the years we have keenly monitored and reviewed changes in the tech industry from a legal and regulatory perspective. Beginning this year, with the gift of hindsight, we seek to take a peek into the coming year and predict what we look forward to in the coming year in legal tech. My colleague Francis Monyango and I highlight our top 8 focus areas for this year;
- Digital protection of rights
The Copyright Amendment Bill is currently in parliament, (at the committee stage); we look forward to its implementation this year. This will be a major win for all creatives, including techies since websites and code are software therefore under copyright.
ISPs will need to improve their policies to make them up to date as per this law and licensing agreements registered in the prescribed manner.
- Industry growth because access to credit!
With the enactment of the Movable Property Security Rights Act, we are eagerly waiting to see which financial institutions will take the lead (*Ahem*, KCB?) on lending to techies and other innovators on the basis of their Intellectual Property. The law now provides for it, we hope the bankers will keep up and step it up this year. In case you borrow on your IP please let us know, 😉
- Data Protection will become a larger conversation
While we are in the age of big data, Kenya is yet to have a data protection law to govern the collection and processing of personal data. Everyday personal information is collected by companies in their course of business. Due to lack of data protection law, the companies can do anything with the data they collect including sharing it with third parties.
We have been pushing for the data protection bill since the initial one lapsed in 2013. Kenya has no law on data protection except for piecemeal provisions in the telecommunications and finance industries. We are excited that it is now becoming a larger conversation now with greater awareness and more questions being raised now. This we predict will grow further and perhaps (hopefully), culminate in a law!
Data Protection for European Customers
The European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force in May 25 and it will affect the digital economy, human rights online and cybersecurity. It will introduce strict regulations on the way the data of European citizens is collected, used, and shared. The Regulations will have an impact beyond Europe as they require that the data of European citizens be managed according to it.
- Unique Identifiers and Biometrics
The Ministry of Education has plans of launching the roll out of National Education Management Information System for all Kenyan learners which the President has dubbed “a single source of truth.” This one of the many other unique identifier based technologies that the government intends on launching this. The NTSA also plans to start issuing the hyped smart drivers licenses.
Telecommunications companies on the other hand have taken up biometric registration of subscribers. So, do not be shocked when the customer care agent at your point of sale asks for your photo and signature. It is important to note that the law on registration does not require them to collect the photos and signatures.
- Fintech: Opera entry and bitcoin bubble
Opera announced its entry to the African fintech scene in December with the their product OPay. It seeks to get a piece of the pie that Tala and Branch have had for some time now. To lead them through this unchartered path, they have picked Eddie Ndichu who used to be the head of digital financial services and mobile payments at KCB.
ICT Minister Joe Mucheru, in an interview with Citizen TV stated that Kenya needs to adopt the Blockchain technology and embrace cryptocurrencies. His comments follow the hype of bitcoin which was trading at $19,000 late last year. Despite the Central Bank issuing a circular in 2015 stating that Bitcoin is not legal tender, Kenyans still bought the cryptocurrency. Citibank analysts have stated that Kenyans have bought bitcoin at an accumulated holding of more than Ksh. 163 billion. With the Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence taskforce coming together and increased industry agitation, we hope to see improved awareness and use of blockchain and cryptocurrency.
- The Fight for Net neutrality is far from over!
Last December, the Federal Communications Commission in the US voted to make the open internet and network principles a thing of the past. However Net neutrality advocates haven’t given up their fight as lawsuits have been filed by attorneys general from 22 states in an attempt to overturn the recent repeal of net neutrality rules. Net neutrality is the idea that internet service providers should treat all internet data as same regardless of its kind, source and destination. We currently don’t have any provisions on net neutrality but with the US decision, we hope it becomes of concern in Kenya too.
- You’ve been served!
We predict more litigation; more suits and court cases but with a tech aspect/perspective toward it than has been the norm. There are very few decisions in Kenya which are rightly decided involving technology as a critically core subject matter. We also predict more Public Interest Litigation fueled through and channeled by social media, e.g. SC Apollo Mboya on KPLC increase of charges.
- Increased community engagement
Lastly, it’s been a running joke that lawyers hate technology, worse yet, they do not understand it (Of sleeping servers and other stories). We plan on demystifying this, Legal Hackers (Nairobi) is a vibrant legal tech community and we hope to engage more techies to build legal solutions but also to loop in more lawyers into this beautiful ecosystem. We therefore look forward to more engagement starting this coming Wednesday with the Moringa School and Metta!