Loading: The ICT Practitioners Bill
Updated: Nov 11, 2022
How will the highly controversial bill affect the ICT industry?
RAYMOND B. KANIU
Kenya's ICT Practitioner's Bill was introduced in 2016 and resurrected in 2018 and 2020 by Aden Duale and Godfrey Osotsi, respectively. The bill called for the registration and licensing of a largely undefined field of ICT Practitioners by a council. To be registered, one would need to have completed a university education with at least three years of relevant experience. It also includes an annual license fee and outlined terms of punishment for non-compliance.
One reason these types of laws are enacted and institutions are erected is to improve accountability and transparency and enhance the ability of a nation to regulate the gray areas and exact punishment to violations. Those who are against the bill are afraid that it might stifle innovation. Innovation has no boundaries and doesn't need regulation to thrive. Whatever society deems necessary, it will invent and will find ways to protect those inventions. If you can create something you should still be in a position to do so with or without the existence of a regulatory/oversight board. As a matter of fact, an existing organization bears the same objective, the Information Communication Technology Association of Kenya (ICTAK).
Both ICTAK and the proposed Institute, share the same vision and mission, the difference is the involvement of the government to regulate as opposed - and in addition - to self-regulation by the professionals. A double layer of protection because the membership requirements differ in writing and application. Largely due to their nature of business, one is an association of all professionals over the age of 18 and the other of a more experienced group of professionals (a university degree and three years of relevant experience) guided by a Council mandated by the government.
The Institute that will be created will assist those who have gone through the proposed channels to become certified nationally, and those who have gone through informal processes to become formalized. If that doesn't convince you, consider this, lawyers, accountants, engineers, and any other professions with a regulatory/oversight board were at this juncture before and acquiesced to the same.
For example, Accounting was previously taught at primary level under Home Science & Business Education in the previous 700 system. One could have completed Standard Eight after sitting for the KCPE exams and would have been ready to practice basic business accounting by balancing books, collecting data, and preparing simple financial statements. However, the problem arose out of the fact that one can do that for a personal business but could not have done the same for a business where many people were involved, like a corporation. When what you wield in the form of a paying skill is not recognized or regulated under a common organ or institution, who's to blame when you lose millions of shillings? Who will hold you accountable beyond your professional peer associations? Who will vouch for your credibility if the damage extends beyond borders? Who will hire you if you lack that credibility? How will your skill transference or mobility locally, regionally, or internationally be affected?
That is what this bill is about. It creates the equivalent of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK). A professional body for certified public accountants (CPAs) in Kenya, a full member of the International Federation of Accountants (global level) and the Pan African Federation of Accounting (regional level). The ICT Practitioners Bill puts everyone who possesses the skill and ability to use and create ICT, on an even playing field.
The bill also comes at an opportune time. The Big Technology companies like Alphabet, Microsoft, and Amazon are flocking to the "Silicon Savannah" and Nairobi is growing in both stature and aplomb as a technology hub, regionally and globally. The Bill fits the bill, pun-intended. Moreover, the Kenyan Institute of Curriculum Development recently approved a new curriculum for secondary and primary school students that will teach coding, making Kenya the first country on the continent to implement coding in its curriculum. It means there will be more people with ICT skills in the future and we must consider the opportunities available to them, which will most likely follow the path of the example given above.
Ask yourselves, if you were a Big Tech company, or a local beast in the industry like Safaricom, which of the two sides of this argument would you rather bring on your team? Kenya has one of the youngest and most educated populations in Africa, opportunities will be few and far between and we all cannot be innovators and entrepreneurs. Some will have to seek opportunities to support other innovators and entrepreneurs, within Kenya's borders and beyond.
To the people belongs the choice and the willpower to bring change. To the government, the responsibility to ensure those decisions are upheld in consideration of all stakeholders and their responsibilities.