Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has refused to sign a controversial ICT Practitioners Bill into law.
The bill is aimed at regulating the country’s ICT sector, and received approval from the country’s National Assembly earlier this month. However, it has provoked backlash from many Kenyans who argue it is both unconstitutional and untenable.
Local outlet Kenyans.co.ke reported that under the bill, anyone with even basic IT skills such as website building would be required to obtain a licence in order to offer their services, with fines and other penalties threatened against those who failed to comply.
The bill proposes that ICT practitioners must hold a Bachelor’s degree from a recognised institution, have a minimum of three years’ experience, register with a national body, and pay an annual fee. Kenya’s ICT Ministry criticised the proposals and called on the president to dismiss the bill, with ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru saying: “"This ICT Bill is a private member's Bill. As a Ministry, we continuously fought against this Bill in its various forms.”
Industry lobby group KIES (Kenya ICT Ecosystem Stakeholders) warned that the bill would stymie development and innovation in the sector, saying in an open letter to the President: “this proposed law to regulate such a wide sector is not in the best interests of the ICT sector, and Kenya’s digital economy at large. It threatens the gains made to grow Kenya’s digital economy and its dynamic ICT sector, including job creation for millions of youth, revenue generation, and foreign direct investments in SMEs and Startups.”
The bill has been returned to parliament following Kenyatta’s refusal to sign it into law. Despite the positive reception around his decision, it is unclear whether the bill will be abandoned or revised by parliament.