The Law is Clear: 2018 in Review


As has become custom, we look at seven of the key highlights on the legal and policy front in tech law in Kenya this year.

2018 has been an interesting year in the tech space from a legal and policy perspective. The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) stole the day (read year) as its consequences on industry and consumers reached far and wide.

Is data the new oil?

Since the lapse of the initial data protection and privacy in 2012, 2018 was remarkably interesting because we not only had one, but two data protection bills!

We had one from the Senate ICT Committee (which is pending deliberation before the committee of the whole house having passed the 2nd Reading on 7th November 2018)  and another emanating from the Privacy and Data Protection Taskforce under the Ministry of ICT.

Each of these had its pros and cons but what is worthy of mention is that the Taskforce Bill incorporated changes recommended from stakeholders in addition to having a proposed policy framework.

New Cybercrime law in Kenya? 

The past year saw the enactment of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act of 2018. However, High Court Judge, Justice Chacha Mwita suspended 26 sections of the law.

The main argument is that the sections are unconstitutional as the offences created infringe on the freedom of expression, the right to privacy and property enshrined under the Constitution of Kenya, 2010. The matter is still on going and the petition can be accessed here.

The Telcoms Dominance Conversation 

A major conversation that is indeed still ongoing and currently before the National Assembly Departmental Committee on Communication,Information & Innovation has been that of Safaricom, a leading telecommunications service provider being dominant in the industry and discussing what that means for the other players, industry and consumers.

Kuna Matata?

In recent weeks, emanating from an article published in one of the country’s dailies, a viral conversation on Intellectual Property came up. The focus being search results on the ‘Hakuna Matata trademark, the discussion has been on our lips and finger(tips).

From the musical band, Them Mushrooms who sang the song famously known as Kenya Hakuna Matata, the tweets from infuriated swahili speakers on the timeline and the online petition that states ‘ … can’t be allowed to trademark something that it didn’t invent.’

As a matter of fact, the mark was filed for registration in 1994 and eventually registered in 2003. As IP (no, not Internet Protocol but Intellectual Property) practitioners, we have observed that there is indeed a need for more awareness creation on all matters intellectual property.

On Copyright, the Copyright Amendment Bill of 2017 is pending the 3rd reading stage of law making which is the determination by the whole house before the Senate. This is after it was passed by the National Assembly and forwarded to the Senate for consideration on 29/8/2018

Still on IP, the Kenya Industrial Property Institute also moved house and is currently in Westlands, next to the junction of Musa Gitau Road & Kabasiran Avenue off Waiyaki Way.

Increased Tax

The Finance Bill of 2018 introduced increased tax on several communications and mobile money transactions. The law increased excise duty on telephone and internet data services as well as on fees charged for money transfer services by cellular phone service providers, banks, money transfers agencies and other financial service providers.

The Big Four Agenda

Beginning of the year, the President launched the ambitious big four agenda that has been on the lips of each and every government official this year. The crux of which, is the government’s big four development agenda for the nation on food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable healthcare for all. ICT touches on each of these but is largely under the manufacturing arm – to enhance Manufacturing from 9.2% to 20 % of GDP by 2022.

On this premise, In February the Minister of ICT appointed the the Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence Taskforce. This dream team was to research digital technologies that demonstrate great potential to transform Kenya’s economy such as distributed ledger technologies (blockchain and hashgraph), artificial intelligence (Al.), 5G wireless technology, and the internet of things.

We’re still waiting for the launch of this taskforce’s report and findings but it is commendable that GoK is looking forward.

Tech Disrupts Legal Practice?

It is common knowledge that new and emerging technologies disrupt traditional industries and the way of doing things.

In 2018, lawyers were faced with the impending reality that technology could take over simple land transactions by the introduction of the Land Information Management Systems (LIMS). The System introduces an online verification portal where buyers and sellers of land may initiate the sales process from search to transfer of titles without the intervention or support of a lawyer. This comes after registration of business entities was made simpler through the government portal, e-citizen.

We also saw the judiciary embrace technology by allowing court users file documents digitally (e – filing). That it works well and efficiently is a story for another post. 

It’s been an incredible 2018 on this front as we have seen most of our predictions come true.

We wish you a prosperous and blessed 2019!

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'I speak legalese, understand the tech and hack the law.' June Okal is a legal professional in Technology, Media and Telecommunications Law Practice and Co - Organizer of Nairobi Legal Hackers. Her focus areas are Innovation, Intellectual Property and Internet Governance.


  1. It might be true that technology is eliminating the role of lawyers from several processes. But, It’s the need of the time to adapt to new technologies in order to simplify complicated tasks, saves time and reduce processing cost. I’m glad that you at least pointed out one area where legal technologies are doing well. Like the e-filing system mentioned in the article, many smart systems like court management systems, advanced legal invoice processing systems etc. are being implemented today for helping the legal industry to boost up its productivity to next level. It’s a great sight to see many companies including startups to tech giants taking initiative and considerably investing to re-build a highly technology oriented legal industry.

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