Kenya Revives Controversial Bill to Regulate ICT Industry

Kenya Revives Controversial Bill to Regulate ICT Industry

Kenya has revived the controversial ICT Practitioners Bill, now rebranded as the ICT Authority Bill, 2024. This new legislation aims to regulate the country’s ICT industry by licensing and registering ICT companies and professionals.

Initially introduced in 2016 by then-majority leader Aden Duale, the ICT Practitioners Bill faced widespread criticism. Critics argued that it duplicated existing laws and could hinder talented professionals by mandating university degrees. The bill ultimately did not receive presidential assent.

The reintroduction of the ICT Authority Bill 2024 by ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo seeks to mandate that companies offering ICT services be accredited by an authority under the ICT ministry. This accreditation will involve meeting minimum technical qualifications, relevant experience, and possessing the necessary resources—all determined by the authority. The process will also include paying a fee, though the specific charges remain undefined and will be determined by the Authority if the bill passes.

Despite multiple amendments, the new ICT Authority Bill retains some unresolved issues. Notably, it remains unclear about the definitions of “ICT services” and the “minimum technical qualifications” required by practitioners and companies. This lack of clarity echoes concerns raised during the bill’s previous iterations.

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“The Authority may revoke a certificate of a service provider where the service provider ceases to carry on the business with respect to which the certificate was issued; is wound up, liquidated or otherwise dissolved; and at the end of suspension period, the service provider has not complied with any directive offered,” reads part of the proposed bill.

A Controversial Practitioners Bill

In 2018, the ICT Practitioners Bill was revised to introduce certification by the Practitioners Council. Although the amendment no longer required practitioners to have a bachelor’s degree, eligibility remained unclear. Further amendments in 2020 included fines of up to KES 500,000 ($3,800) and jail terms for non-registered businesses, raising concerns about overly harsh penalties.

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The bill narrowly avoided passage in June 2022, just before the national elections held in August. While President Kenyatta did not sign it into law, the re-emergence of these unresolved issues suggests further debate is likely.

Kenyan ICT professionals argue that the true measure of success often lies beyond formal qualifications. They emphasize that the industry rewards those who can think creatively and expand their knowledge base, with validation coming from effective solutions rather than institutional approval.

“I have never worked for any client or company that cared about my qualifications, all they ever wanted is to know if I can solve problems in their organization and add value to their business,” said John Irungu, a computer programmer.

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