Major developments are happening in the Kenyan ICT sector. Let me list some of them.
- Publishing of the ICT Policy and Strategic Papers by the Ministry of Information and Communication.
- Introduction of the ICT Bill 2006
- Development of the Kenya fiber portion of the East African Backhaul Transmission Link. This is a SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy) based optical network that has been constructed from Mombasa to Malaba (Kenya - Uganda border) through Nairobi with spurs to major towns within the country. - Zero-rating of computers and peripheries to encourage accessibility to all.
- Development of the ESSAY and TEAMs submarine cable projects that will provide an undersea fiber optic cable linking Kenya and its hinterlands to the global super highway.
- The implementation of an e-government programme that has acted as a catalyst for widespread ICT uptake by the business sector and the public.
- Inception of the ICT Board that will market the country as an ICT destination, outline guidelines, set parameters and market the use of technology in economic growth.
- The April, 2007 launching of a multi-billion project to put ICT centres countrywide by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK). The project to cost Shs 12 billion ($ 180 million) will see all the 210 constituencies in the country have modern communication facilities and enhance universal access.
More developments are on the way and excitement is in the air. However as we march on resolutely towards the bright and shiny digital sun let us pause for a minute and consider a very important deficiency in this whole scenario.
Any building that is meant to withstand the vagaries of weather and constant usage needs a strong foundation. We are busy with the wooden beams, the floor trusses, the electrical wiring and the laminated arches. The double glazed windows are quite impressive. It all looks good.
However we have forgotten the legislation. How come we have totally missed this aspect?
The ICT Policy (January, 2006) states that ICT is currently considered by the following Acts:
1)Science and Technology Act, Cap. 250 of 1977
2)The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation Act of 1988 and
3)The Kenya Communications Act of 1998
It is acknowledged that the above are woefully inadequate in dealing with issues of convergence, e-commerce, security, business process outsourcing, e-government and many other ICT functions. The ICT Bill of 2006 is still awaiting passage through parliament. I am not optimistic of that happening this election year.
What are the implications? One example has to do with Safe Harbour. These are basically a set of seven legal principles that are used by the EU and USA that concern data protection. In summary they state that for those countries outside the above two regions whose privacy practices (i.e. legislation) are not deemed “adequate”, transfers of personal information from these respective regions would be stopped.
Are our privacy practices adequate? Do we have readily available recourse mechanisms that can be used to resolve individual and corporate complaints in regard to data protection? Do we have legal procedures for verifying that intellectual property is safeguarded? Do we have procedures to rigorously pursue and prosecute online criminals?
Mr. Mutahi Kagwe and Dr Bitange have so far done a splendid job as IT champions in the government. They have however concentrated their efforts on the infrastructure (the wooden beams) instead of securing a stable and firm legislative foundation first.
We need to push for this legislation starting with the 2006 ICT Bill. The Computer Society of Kenya and the Kenya ICT Federation need to lobby intensely for more legislation. If we are not careful this discrepancy will come back to bite us - where - yes - at that place where it hurts most!!!