By John Walubengo
Last week Friday 8th September 2023, the Cabinet Secretary for ICT, Mr. Eliud Owalo inaugurated the Working Group on ‘ICT Sectoral Reforms in Legal and Policy Framework’.
In his own words, the CS said that the team of technocrats had been specially identified and selected to lead the country in policy, legal and legislative reforms – in the various areas that fell under the mandate of the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Digital Economy.
The main justification behind the formation of the team was informed by the fact that the parent legislation guiding the ICT sector was enacted close to twenty-five years ago under very different circumstances that may not be obtained in the current realities of emerging technologies.
This blog had made a similar observation a while back and argued that whereas frequent amendments to the 1998 Telecommunications Act had served to keep the law relevant, it had reached its limit and perhaps needed a complete overhaul.
Some of the technologies that were not in existence then, but are currently very mainstream include, but are not limited to mobile networks, mobile money, Over-the-Top services such as Netflix streaming services, Big Data & AI-driven services, Blockchain, Virtual Digital Assets, Cryptocurrencies just to mention a few.
Basically, the ICT Landscape has totally changed and needs new thinking as captured in the terms of reference read out by the ICT Minister as outlined below. The specific terms of reference for the team included :
- Examining the existing policy, legislative, institutional, administrative and operational structures, systems and strategies and recommending comprehensive reforms in the Sector.
- Identifying emerging technologies and other areas that need legal and policy intervention and make appropriate policy and legislative proposals.
- Making any other assessment and advise on necessary reforms to enable the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Digital Economy meet its present mandate and expectations in a fast-changing operational environment; and,
- Drafting relevant Bills, draft Policies and Strategy documents.
The Working Group team, headed by the seasoned and experienced ICT veteran, Professor Tim Waema of the University of Nairobi has its work clearly cut out. Kenyans will be looking forward to what recommendations the dream team will put together to guide the ICT sector over the next twenty years.
It is indeed a historic opportunity for the team, to once again lay the foundational policy, legal and regulatory frameworks and structures that hopefully would cement Kenya’s place as one of the leading ICT countries in Africa and beyond.