The Head of State failed to sign the ICT Practitioners Bill into law despite it being passed by the House last week. The president on Tuesday, 21st of June, had been presented with several bills for signing. He sent the ICT Bill back to parliament alongside the Higher Education Loans Bill of 2020 and the Insurance Professionals Registration Bill of 2020 while assenting 10 bills into law.
The ICT Bill sought to have parliament set up a council to provide for the training, registration, licensing, practices, and standards of ICT practitioners in the country. In other words, it called for the regulation of who can practice ICT in Kenya. It was first presented to Parliament in 2016 by Garissa Township MP Aden Duale with backup from his nominated counterpart Godfrey Osotsi.
The highly disputed bill was passed by parliament last week, despite overwhelmingly negative feedback from public participation of key ICT stakeholders. Principals in ICT and netizens who practice ICT viewed the bill to be in bad taste, ill-informed, and that it didn’t address any crucial issues in the sector.
The bone of contention comes in section 19 of the bill which lists the criteria for ICT practitioners to be licensed. It lists a University Degree from a reputable institution, among other things, as a key requirement in licensing any ICT Practitioner. The technology sector in Kenya is booming. In fact, Kenya has been termed Africa’s silicon valley in matters of technology and innovation.
We have read many success stories of self-taught developers in Kenya. One such name is Martha Chumo, a 28-year-old, self-taught developer who founded The Dev School which equips youth in East Africa with computer programming skills. Frank Tamre, is another self-taught developer who dropped out of uni to co-found one of the best coding schools in East Africa- Moringa School. These are just two success stories, but a good number of talented developers in Kenya are self-taught; meaning they do not hold a university degree in ICT from a recognized university.
ICT is a skill that can be learned without conventional lecture-hall education. The low barriers to entry into the IT industry; a laptop and good internet, have seen several people with a passion for IT venture into the field. Surprisingly, some of these self-taught experts are way more experienced than individuals who took a full four-year course in ICT. The signing of this bill into law would rain hellfire on the careers these self-taught developers have worked so effortlessly to obtain.
This bill would cripple the ICT Industry in ways such as:
- Stifle innovation
Kenya is a hub of technological innovation. The ICT bill only sets to bring unnecessary roadblocks to these innovative ideas from people who might fail to meet the criteria for licensing as ICT Practitioners.
- Chase away investors
The technology bubble has been flying high and investors have been key to invest in brilliant ideas. The idea of gate keeping that this ICT bill looks to put in place will only make it harder for these investors to support passionate self-taught ICT practitioners in the country. For us to uphold our position as the light of technological advancement in Africa, we need these investors to pump in more money and support technological innovations.
- Brain drain
Picture this, the thousands of self-taught ICT experts who would be affected by this bill will have to find a solution to their predicament. The most probable solution?- Working in other countries that value them for their skill rather than their papers. We will lose smart, talented innovative solution providers if this bill is ever assented into law!
Arguably, the Bill was not an actual representation of the situation on the ground. It would also curtail innovation rather than encourage it, contrary to the ICT policy and government development agenda. Needless to say, the president did us a solid one by failing to assent this bill into law. The global standards of the ICT industry mostly mandate that it is self-regulatory. This is because it evolves at a faster rate than any university can keep up with.