Kenya Dispatch: Controversial Bill Regulating IT Professionals Awaits President’s Signature – JURIST
Last week, Kenya’s parliament passed the controversial Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Practitioners Bill 2020. who use technology to collect, process, use or send information on behalf of others for compensation.
The issue of conflict arises from how Parliament wishes to achieve this objective. The bill states that to be an ICT practitioner in Kenya, one must have completed a university degree or completed a training program accepted by the council of the institute of ICT practitioners. Additionally, practitioners will be required 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 is because many ICT practitioners in Kenya are self-taught. This is not surprising considering that it is now possible for people to learn on their own using various social media platforms such as YouTube where people can share videos on how to complete various technical tasks. . It is therefore unfair that the government is locking these people out. Many Kenyans took to Twitter and other social media platforms to voice their opposition to the bill. Many have argued that platforms like Microsoft wouldn’t have existed if their governments had locked out their creators simply because they weren’t educated.
Ordinary citizens weren’t the only ones to express their distaste for the bill. Politicians such as Raila Odinga (leader of the Azimio la Umoja party) and Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru also publicly rejected the bill and called on President Uhuru Kenyatta not to sign it. They both argue that if the bill is made into law, many Kenyans will lose their jobs. Moreover, many brilliant people who could have made a difference in the ICT sector will be locked out due to such stringent requirements.
Despite the opposition, MPs supporting the bill continue to claim that the bill will help reduce the number of frauds in the industry, thereby benefiting the country in the long run. Moreover, there are ICT experts like Dr. Shem Ochuodho who support the bill. He argues that the bill will benefit the country and that the only people who are against the bill are those who have benefited from the lack of structure in the ICT sector so far.
As it stands, the bill has already been forwarded to President Kenyatta for approval. Under Kenyan law, the president has 14 days to accept or reject the bill while notifying parliament of his reservations. However, due to the fast approaching elections, the parliament officially closed until further notice last week on Thursday. This was done immediately after the bill was passed, so it will be very difficult for the president to reject the bill. It is unclear how the President will communicate his reservations, if any, and if he fails to do so within the stipulated 14 days, the Bill will automatically be signed into law as per Section 116 of the Constitution of Kenya.