The Computer Society of Kenya

Since 1986

DNCAKBOARD3007gDAILY NATION By JOHN WALUBENGO

Tuesday July 12, 2016

It is not clear who coined the phrase "Be careful what you wish for; you might just get it". That, however, may be what has just happened.

Two years ago, I blogged about the need to have the ICT sector organised under one legally recognised umbrella body.

I argued that with one strong, representative voice the sector would be able to guide the nation in both prosperous and difficult moments.

Further, I argued that an Act of Parliament would go a long way in ensuring that such a voice was grounded in legislation and therefore may not be easily wished away by current or future governments.

Then out of the blue, Parliament puts out a public announcement that a bill to regulate ICT professionals was out, has undergone the first reading and requires public input before progressing through the subsequent second and third readings.

One may have concluded that I finally got what I had had prayed for. All hell then broke loose, as documented by the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTAnet) online platform, and Twitter (#KillTheICTBill), as Nanjira Sambuli has written here.

DIVERSE AGENDA

But what exactly are the issues? Is it that professionals in the ICT sector have suddenly realised that they are, after all, better off existing in their own little exclusive silos? The answer is, as usual, both yes and no.

The ICT sector is so diverse that it may be quite difficult to herd them into one corner. We have bodies like ISACA-Kenya that focus on information security and the KEPSA-ICT committee that focuses on lobbying for business interests.

There is TESPOK that is strong in the telecommunications sector, while BAKE looks out for bloggers. The Computer Society of Kenya (CSK) is perhaps the oldest body, focusing on computer professionals, with the ICT Association of Kenya (ICTAK) recently coming up strongly in an attempt to claim its role.

Finally, we have civil society ICT organisations like KICTAnet, Mzalendo,Article 19 and others, which may not fit with the above organisations given their unique, non-profit, public interest orientation.

Clearly, each of the above organisations has its own agenda or objectives and it would be ill-advised to try and merge their diverse objectives into one.

COMMON GROUND

It is better that each retains its own identity and specialisation while still trying to find common ground whenever an issue of public interest arises.

So yes, there is still a need to speak as one voice, but that will be impossible to do under a single organisation.

Perhaps it is better to have all the bodies named above form a coalition of partners that allows them to send out a common message without diluting the various identities of their membership.

This is perhaps the biggest obstacle that the originator of the ICT Practitioners Bill, the ICT Association of Kenya (ICTAK), failed to grasp. 

The bill purports to give ICTAK the sole power to speak, act and issue licenses on behalf of all ICT players. If the bill goes through, ICTAK will essentially dictate who gets qualified to practice, who gets to bid for government ICT tenders and who gets consulted whenever ICT matters of pubic interest arise.

INCLUSIVE CONSULTATIONS

All the other equally relevant players in the ICT sector would be relegated into secondary, if not pedestrian roles, which is honestly unacceptable given that the other bodies have not been consulted on this development.

Wider and inclusive consultations could have avoided the current outrage, particularity if the matter of having a framework or a representative coalition of ICT stakeholders had been resolved.

Even as that may be, however, there are those who still feel the bill is totally uncalled for, given that it would introduce regulation in a sector that has tended to thrive in an unregulated environment.

This concern can only be resolved it if we get together in an inclusive forum to discuss and thrash out these issues.

A one-man-show attitude by ICTAK, or any other stakeholder, would not resolve this issue effectively.

ICTAK can’t speak for Kenya’s entire ICT sector

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