Friday, June 01, 2007
CSK Needs To Flex Its Muscles
The Computer Society of Kenya (www.cskonline.org) is a non-profit professional association that exists to further the ICT profession. Its current Chairman is Mr. Waudo Siganga.
In Kenya we have various professional bodies, some vibrant, some lethargic and most in comatose. One of the most vibrant is ICPAK (Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya) that co-ordinates and oversees the activities/interests of all qualified and registered Certified Public Accountants. Other visible associations include the LSK (Law Society of Kenya), AAK (Architectural Association of Kenya) and NNAK (National Nurses Association of Kenya) among others.
These associations, apart from safeguarding and promoting the interests of their members, have a more critical role to play in society. They are meant to protect the public interest. This means that these associations are responsible for the regulation and licensing of practitioners in their field. These members must be in good standing and professionally monitored if they are to be entrusted by society to perform various crucial roles. The public, in general, is not sufficiently knowledgeable in a particular field of practice so as to determine the validity, worth and integrity of a particular professional. An apt illustration would be the lawyer who defrauds clients of their money and does not deliver the professional services required of him/her. It is the LSK’s mandate to contain such errant members. Mention can also be made of the collapse of a commercial building in Nairobi (January, 2006) where nine lives were lost and over seventy workers seriously injured. Who was supposed to ensure that structural standards met the prescribed standards?
The Kenyan ICT industry is destined to experience phenomenal growth in the near future. ICT practitioners will develop various projects for Kenyans - some of them safety critical - others will be financial, health-based or even research oriented. CSK has a window of opportunity to entrench itself in this nascent but rapidly developing sector. It is time the CSK re-claimed its role in the ICT industry. As the de jure ICT professional association, its functions and activities cannot be viewed in isolation to the development of this sector. It's main role is too crucial to be overlooked.
My first recommendation would be that CSK needs to establish, formulate and maintain a database of all ICT professionals. This should not be voluntary, it should be a mandatory membership. Any ICT professional in Kenya must, by law, ensure they are registered as members of CSK if they are willing to conduct their professional activities within the confines of the law. This would ensure that our rapidly developing industry is not hijacked by white-collar criminals masquerading as ICT practitioners. The necessary legal framework would not be difficult to obtain especially when the relevant ministry is currently only too willing to listen and act on the needs of ICT stakeholders.
The CSK should also embark on an information awareness campaign aimed at dissemination of ICT issues to the society. The public should be informed regularly on any technological, social and legal developments/changes in the local ICT industry. Special emphasis should be placed on the risks that accompany the free access to information of all types. The need to inculcate a mature approach in dealing with this access would forestall, or minimize, cybercrime and general abuse. To this end, Kenyans need to be informed on their ICT consumer rights. The CSK, with the assistance of the recently launched Kenya ICT Consumer Association, can ensure that consumer education and protection becomes a priority in this sector.
It is evident that the shortage of IT skills will be a major impediment to the sustained development of ICT locally. The Minister for Education illustrated this fact recently when he stated that most teachers in our primary, secondary and tertiary institutions are computer illiterate (http://allafrica.com/stories/200705290181.html). These are meant to be the “ICT champions” and they are unprepared to surf the coming digital tsunami. As much as the government has an obligation and responsibility to rectify this situation the CSK would assist by initiating school IT projects and organizing the ICT Schools Congress.
To be able to build an ICT professional body, that is respected and valued for the exploitation and application of IT for the benefit of Kenya, we need the CSK to assert itself and provide a more visible leadership role.