The passing of the ICT Practitioners Bill, 2020 has elicited a lot of controversies, and for multiple reasons. One of the primary concerns from ICT stakeholders, and the industry at large, is that the bill will curtail the growth of the space by forcing practitioners to own licenses, offered by an established Institute, and renewable after one year. The licenses will also be paid for.
We have since looked into the deliberations from Parliament prior to the signing of the bill. A lot of members of parliament supported the bill, many giving their piece of mind about the overall gains that will be made from the law. But are their arguments valid? Well, here are a few pointers from the discussion, and what some MPs said regarding the bill.
Hon. Fabian Muli
To note, the bill was proposed by Hon. Godfrey Osotsi, and seconded by Hon. Patrick Musimba.
At the start of the deliberations, which lasted more than three hours, Hon. Fabian Muli had some issues to raise while supporting the ICT Practitioners Bill, although some of his arguments are not related to the bill, but rather the Data Protection Bill, 2019 and the Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
He argued that the bill was not about setting up of ICT centres (that Kenyans are angry about); it is about policing the space so that Kenyans can get information from the right sources.
“They only have time to sit in the public gallery to hear what is happening because there are no channels in this House of informing the community what happens here. That is why I support this Bill. This is not only about the establishment, but we need means of how our people will get information unlike what is happening in the public media in Kenya’s jurisdiction,” says the MP.
Hon. (Dr.) Robert Pukose
The MP also supported the bill.
He said that the bill is key because it will help in the regulation of training, registration, licensing, and practicing in the ICT sector.
His second point: that Kenya does not have a law that regulators the ICT space.
“We are hoping this Bill will enable us to inject professionalism into this sector, especially among the professionals,” said Hon. (Dr.) Robert Pukose.
The lawmaker referred to the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime (Amendment) Bill, and that the passing of the Practitioners Bill will give the state more power to hold people accountable in case they break laws associated the former bill.
He also says that certified ICT Professionals will be important because they can be reached out to for advice.
The MP also said that institutions offering ICT training need to meet basic standards.
“This is because when you go to town, you will find that almost every college has training in computer studies. We need to regulate and understand the level at which those students are being trained and whether they are at par with worldwide standards or within our region,” said the MP.
Hon. Martin Owino
Hon. Martin Owino also supported the ICT Practitioners Bill.
His argument was that ICT is the backbone/order of doing business across the globe.
He mentioned platforms such as e-citizen, citing it as an effective and efficient tool, and also hold accountability.
“Hon. Temporary Deputy Speaker, we talk of wire transfer which is happening now and has featured in the Russia-Ukraine War and has shown how arrogant countries can be disciplined in the financial sector using ICT,” noted the MP.
Hon. Martin Owino further added some sentiments in support of the bill.
He mentioned that Kenya is experiencing the mushrooming of ICT training centres that do not meet basic standards. He wanted the law passed because such centres must held accountable in terms of what they train, the certificates they issues and whether they are uniform across the country, how much they should charge and so on.
He finished his arguments by stating that ICT training in Kenya is simply chaotic.
“One thing that is more attracting to me is the recognition and classification of these institutions and the certificates and diploma courses that they are going to offer,” he said.
Hon. David ole Sankok
The MP started his remarks by saying that all professionals must be regulated, but the ICT sector has been lacking in the area.
“Lawyers, health practitioners and other professions are regulated. As a professional in this field, Hon. Osotsi deemed it important to regulate his profession,” said Hon Ole Sankok.
He added that the bill will play a key role in strengthening the cybercrime bill, just as Hon. (Dr.) Robert Pukose mentioned.
His other arguments: that the bill will protect the information of people in Kenya’s banking system; that it will protect media houses from bullying from politicians, especially during the polls like now because the houses will air professional information that is key to Kenyans, and that the bill will help the state weed out fake information/news/propaganda on social media platforms.
Hon. Majimbo Kalasinga
He supported the bill because he just wants to see the space regulated.
For instance, he mentioned that if a person is running a cybercafe, he/should be liable to issues under him. That way, the industry will head in a direction of responsibility.
“So, for you to run a cybercafé you must have training in ICT so as to understand what you are doing and not just because of business. When I look at this Bill, it will bring the traceability factor. You can trace where a crime happened and by whom because firms will be registered and held responsible for anything they do. In this country, this field is abused in a way that malpractices and extortions have affected the financial sector. This Bill will implore the ICT practitioner to stand responsible for what they believe. The secrecy aspect which this Bill seeks to bring makes me support it,” he said.
Ideally, the MP’s point was that the ICT sector is one of the most abused in the country and therefore needs professionalism, thusly his support of the bill.
Hon. Emmanuel Wangwe
The MP brought up the ICT training issues, that there are many computer training colleges that are not regulated, yet they offer certificates and diplomas to students.
“When you look at the training aspect, there are very many mushrooming colleges on the streets. They allege that when you get 24 packages in computer studies, this is a diploma. It does not make sense that you now just go to the street to train on what they call computer driving,” he said.
He also said that many crimes now are ICT-based, and that the bill will allow companies to check fraudsters in their systems ‘on behalf of national security.’
Hon. Godfrey Osotsi (Bill Sponsor)
His arguments started by mentioning the incoming polls.
He argued that the exercise will mostly be IT-based.
For instance, results will be electronically submitted from polling stations to the national tallying centre and constituency tallying centre through a secure network.
Voter registration information will be accessed online, and not via physical books as it was the case in previous polls.
IEBC will also use one or a group of networks (Safaricom/Airtel/Telkom) to transmit results via 3G/4G, alongside satellite networks.
Also, this time around, Smartmatic BV Holdings will manage the elections, and not OT Morpho. The company, for those who are asking, creates and offers electronic voting technology and services that have been designed to make elections ‘more auditable and transparent.’
These activities, according to Hon. Osotsi, are carried out by professionals, and they are risky activities ‘because all of them are driving this ICT sector without any legal and ethical framework.’
To this end, the nominated MP said that the bill will address the problem.
- A number of ICT bills have been passed by the House. some of them have been challenged by the industry, including the Cybercrime act. Some acts have not been challenged but remain unimplemented because the profession is not regulated. A good example is the Data Protection Act, which according to the MP, has not been implemented because of the said reason.
- The bill will not lock out ICT practitioners. For instance, the bill recognizes people or the youth who do not have extensive formal education (<college/university level), and that if they come up with an innovation, they will still be registered as ICT practitioners.
- That the bill will reduce the cost of ICT services in Kenya. This is because there is/was no law that guides how ICT services and products should be priced.
- ‘Self-regulation in this country has failed because everyone wants to do his bit and there is no control. This Bill will bring harmony, structure, remove disorder and make this country a centre of innovation not only in Africa, but also across the world.’
- Barriers of entry to ICT practitioners. ‘Even our youth who have no high qualifications but are innovative will be integrated as practitioners. That, in itself, will ensure that whatever innovation that our youth will come up with will not be stolen.’
- About making it mandatory to register as an IT practitioner, the MP says that this will not be the case. The law just opens it up so that members can decide to join or otherwise.
- On the jurisdiction of foreign ICT firms: the MP says that most ICT contracts are done by foreign ICT firms. However, he says that he wants local ICT practitioners recognized. “As a country, we lose out on tax because of offshore ICT services. They make money from Kenyans, but they do not remit any tax. This issue will be addressed. However, we will not limit the participation of those companies in our economy,” says the MP.
- Kenya loses up to KES 21 billion every year in our banks as a result of cybercrime, and no one is prosecuted. According to the MP, the culprits get away with it because there is no law that manages the conduct of ICT professionals.
The industry is still battling the law, and letters have been written to Parliament and the President to reverse the bill. The discussion can be followed online via the #killictbill, so you can follow it for additional information.