Proposed ICT Policy 2016: How Kenya Stands to Gain

Who are the winners from the proposed Kenya ICT Policy 2016?

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The achievement of an information society and knowledge economy is one of the main priorities of the Government towards the attainment of the development goals and objectives for wealth and employment creation as espoused in Kenya’s Vision 2030.

The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology has been working on development and drafting of a National ICT policy as outlined here and here.

As per the policy, the core reason for this action is due to the rapid change and dynamic nature of technology.

It is important to know that the purpose of policy instruments is to outline the philosophical underpinnings of actions to be taken by legislators. Policies are drafted by the responsible ministries and inform the preparation of bills, which are then presented before parliament for debate, refining and hopefully presidential assent. That said, it isn’t a binding instrument or as authoritative as statute or the Constitution would be, however it is directorial and guiding.

Being actively involved in the stakeholder process from the release of the 6th draft and being a member of redrafting working groups, here are a few parties who I believe are big winners from the policy.

Industry

The Policy recognizes the role of the ICT sector as a critical pillar in national development and enabler of business to achieve set goals of being a regional leader in knowledge based economy.

Innovators and Content creators

The World Intellectual Property Organization ranks Kenya as the 3rd most innovative Country in Africa. The ICT Policy recognizes this and envisages the creation of an enabling environment to facilitate development and deployment of ICT infrastructure.

The policy pushes for support of locally based development of ICT applications and multimedia content for productivity.

It will promote electronic publishing, collection and preservation of local materials and seeks to recognize digital content as copyright material.

It will also actively protect the rights of copyright owners through law enforcement to prevent digital content piracy; i.e. Copyright Protection. Our law is currently undergoing amendment to facilitate protection of creative works on digital and online platforms so it’s a win to be included in the policy.

ICT Practitioners

Techies as we know them, not necessarily as under proposed regulatory instruments. The policy intends to foster interest in research and development activities related to ICT and increase the size and quality of ICT-skilled human resource base in Kenya.

Also, to facilitate Public Private Partnerships to mobilize resources in order to support e-learning initiatives and Encourage skills transfer programs where foreign experts are involved in ICT projects implementation.

The tech industry has actively criticized the disparity between academic instruction and on the ground required skills. The policy thus pushes for closer collaboration between academia and industry to align curriculum with advancement in technologies and market needs at the same time encouraging the establishment of ICT Centers of Excellence.

Local Manufacturers

The Taifa laptop has shown us that we can assemble at home; the policy advocates for increased support for local Production/Assembly Line, ICT friendly tax regimes and will discourage sale and use of counterfeit/substandard devices/handsets.

Animation

We all know and are aware of Fatboy animations, the guys who run ads for Jamii Telcom’s Faiba and Epic Studios. The Policy will Promote Animation Labs (A-Lab) through Government support of incubation labs focused on animation & film production that is largely computer generated.

Gamers

Granted, gaming isn’t as mainstream as mobile and web development is in Kenya. However, our forward looking policy hopes to introduce fiscal incentives like capital investment subsidy, reimbursement of levies, duties etc.; as well as encourage development of Specialized Certification Programs in partnership with the industry to promote acquisition of high-end programming skills to promote this segment.

Researchers

The proposed policy seeks to put in a framework to facilitate ease of accessing information. It encourages uptake of open data practices for both public and private entities holding public information; to avail them to the public upon request or when reasonable need arises.

To encourage universities and tertiary institutions to establish post-doctoral fellow research posts on contract terms to undertake R&D activities in collaboration with industry players and Government agencies.

With devolution upon us, the Establishment of R&D institutions in the counties to instill the spirit of innovation is a win for our innovation ecosystem.

Business Community and Telcos

The Policy intends to provide industry players with access to government-owned infrastructure assets , encourages public private partnerships, introduction of more fiscal incentives in addition to being granted intermediary protection from liability of users acts.

Fintech

Blockchain technology has been on our lips for a while now especially because the Central Bank unequivocally distanced itself from the digital currency, bitcoin.

Government will: Encourage financial technology service providers to share their infrastructure and networks in transparent, fair and non-discriminatory basis, provide incentives to financial technology service operators, encourage collaboration with the Central Bank of Kenya, and Promote innovation in financial technology services.

Persons with Disabilities

As a nation we are guilty for unconsciously excluding persons with disabilities (PWDs). The policy however hopes to enhance access to ICTs by persons with disabilities, to ease access to government information, to promote access of ICT Infrastructure and encourage telcos to develop services with special attention to Persons with Disabilities/special needs.

From a legal and theoretical perspective, PWDs have never been as included and catered for before now. That being said, we hope to see it materialize on the ground as well.

Kenyans as Public Service Users

At some point of our Kenyan lives, we will inevitably need to get a birth certificate, a driver’s license, an identity card or some governmental service. We all appreciate the progress and recognize the impact that Huduma centres have had in improving public service delivery. The Policy advocates for Implementation of e-government by State entities to enhance the uptake of ICT in its operations for effective and efficient delivery of services to its citizens

Government

By harnessing the power of online technologies, state-owned enterprises are expected to improve their sourcing, sales and logistics systems; streamline operations and identify, track market trends and boost their marketing, research and innovation capabilities. County governments haven’t been as active in the ICT uptake front but here’s their chance! The policy encourages Counties collaboration to enhance and increase access to ICTs for their constituents.

.ke – KENIC

The Kenya Network Information Centre is the entity that is the country’s ccTLD (Country Code Top Level Domain) registry; in English, they manage all .ke domains. There has indeed been an increase of .ke users over the years and a corresponding decrease of costs incurred in creation and maintenance of the domains.

The Government will promote dot KE by exclusive use of .go.ke domains in all government business and communications. What this means is any email communication from a .go.ke email address may form a public record enhancing accountability and the Public Officers Ethics Act requirements.

Also, encouraging the local Hosting of information. There is a myth that needs to be demystified that if your information is locally hosted the Government can easily access it and use it against you. KENIC has a clear Alternative Dispute Resolution Policy which unambiguously outlines the process in case of disputes.

New Broadcasters (Private and Community)

The Policy hopes to encourage the licensing of broadcast signal distribution services depending on the market growth and the availability of the required radio frequency spectrum resources. With the Digital migration it is apparent how many new channels have been created focusing on specific genres and catering for all demographics across the board.

Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC)

We all know that there is something that our national broadcaster lacks. Industry experts say it’s because the law binds what activities the broadcaster can undertake. The policy now provides for restructuring to ensure its relevance and viability as the public broadcaster.

It may now have a commercial aspect which will allow it engage in commercial activities to increase and diversify revenue streams.

Over the Top Service Providers

The policy suggests Encouraging eventual investment and contribution to the local economy by global OTT service providers; encourages local peering, and local content caching partnerships.

It also encourages locally regulated telecommunications operators and broadcasters to develop and diversify their business models in order to effectively stay competitive in light of the challenges of OTTs.

Kenyans in general

The Policy’s major intended reach is you and I, the Kenyan; in this regard there’s numerous winning points for us.

Government is committed to ensuring that ICT services are available throughout the country and will support the universal service availability and the widest access to such services. Also, to bring in affordable devices to citizens to ensure we can access services.

It supports the development of fundamental infrastructure; Affordable internet connectivity, availability of broadband connectivity, promotion of number portability, implementation of a national addressing system.

As consumers our Consumer rights are sufficiently covered, there is provision for child online protection, enhanced cybersecurity, gambling and augmented/virtual reality best practices.

The industry regulator, Communications Authority and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicate that the value of ICT output increased by 8.1 per cent in 2015 from 2014, the mobile penetration stood at 94.0 per cent while internet penetration stood at 59.6 per cent in 2015 and the value of ICT goods exported increased by 64.1 per cent.

The Sector has a significant impact on our economy and affects our Gross Domestic Product.

The Policy is very futuristic which is commendable, it takes into account several issues in the tech space and has the mwananchi’s interests at heart. Hats off to the draft team who worked tirelessly to ensure the development of the exceptional policy.

Monitoring and Evaluation

The policy shall receive a mid-term review every three (3) years and a long term review every five (5) years in order to cater for the fast rate of technology innovation and advancement.

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