The Computer Society of Kenya

Since 1986

ictnewsDAILY NATION By JOHN WALUBENGO

Wednesday June 29, 2016

Recently, the Ministry of ICT published its 2016 National ICT Draft Policy for public comment. 

For a public that is arguably the most digitally active in Africa, the relatively few comments coming in are surprising.

The draft policy is hosted at the ICT Ministry website, the Strathmore University Jadili platform and on the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTAnet) forum, where online moderation on the ICT issues is currently under way.

Feedback from the public is flowing on these platforms, but dismally, considering our larger-than-life reputation as one of the most digitised nations in Africa.

It’s amazing how truly the expression "the more things change, the more they remain the same" applies.

In early 2000, there was a clamour by Kenya's ICT pioneers to have the government publicly discuss the national ICT policy that, allegedly, was being cooked exclusively by the Kanu regime.

At that time it was common knowledge that government policy, be it in agriculture, education, health, transportation or ICT, was the prerogative of those in power. 

All other stakeholders were largely considered disgruntled elements, or at best wananchi whose role was to wait for "wenye-inchi" to prescribe to them what was good for their sector.

ICT professionals back then made persistent, relentless efforts for years to convince the Kanu regime that the process of policy making should be inclusive, particularly because knowledge and wisdom in matters ICT was not exclusively held within government. 

SILENT PUBLIC

But it took a regime change for this fact to be acknowledged. And so when the Narc regime headed by President Kibaki took over, the private sector, academia, the media and civil society, amongst other stakeholders, were finally invited to deliberate on what would eventually become the 2006 National ICT policy.

Perhaps, coming from a history of oppression and suppression, the 2006 ICT policy process seemed more engaging, diverse and enriching.

Fast forward to 2016. Kenyans now have a new Constitution that mandates the government to engage the public in matters of policy and governance, but the public seems too busy to care to participate.

We seem to have undergone a complete cycle, because a disconnected public means policy will be made exclusively by the government.

We are technically back to where the ICT pioneers thought they had moved us away from, and this is not just limited to ICT matters. 

Parliament, county governments and other public agencies have laboured hard to get feedback from a detached Kenyan public that seems to prefer silence, only to complain bitterly after the policy, act or regulation is gazetted.

It is very easy, in contemporary Kenya, to nullify government policy. Any citizen can go to court and simply claim that the policy or legislation in dispute did not sufficiently involve or engage the public.

Please do not keep quiet in a move calculated to result in court disputes. Exercise your right now and have your voice heard by participating in the policy process — whichever way you prefer.

The online and offline channels are all open for feedback, but they will close in mid July 2016.

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