Kenya has revived the controversial ICT Practitioners Bill, now rebranded as the ICT Authority Bill, 2024. The new legislation aims to regulate its ICT industry by licensing and registering ICT companies and professionals. 

First introduced in 2016 by the then majority leader Aden Duale, the ICT Practitioners Bill received industry-wide criticism. Critics pointed out that the bill duplicated existing laws and faulted its potential to hinder talented professionals by mandating university degrees. In the end, it did not receive presidential assent. 

With the reintroduction of the ICT Authority Bill 2024 by ICT cabinet secretary Eliud Owalo, Kenya is again attempting to mandate that companies offering ICT services be accredited by an authority under the ICT ministry.

This accreditation will involve meeting minimum technical qualifications, relevant experience, and having the necessary resources—all determined by the authority. The process will also include paying a fee similar to the original bill proposed eight years ago, although the charges were undefined. The costs will be determined by the Authority should the current bill be passed.  

Despite multiple amendments to the Practitioners Bill, the new ICT Authority Bill carries forward some unresolved issues. For instance, it remains unclear on two key points: the definition of “ICT services” and the “minimum technical qualifications” required by practitioners and companies. This lack of clarity echoes concerns raised during the bill’s previous iterations.

“The Authority may revoke a certificate of a service provider, where the service provider ceases to carry on the business with respect to which the certificate was issued; is wound up, liquidated or otherwise dissolved; and at the end of suspension period, the service provided has not complied with any directive offered,” reads part of the proposed bill. 

A controversial Practitioners Bill

In 2018, the ICT Practitioners Bill was revised to introduce certification by the Practitioners Council. Although the amendment no longer required practitioners to have a bachelor’s degree, eligibility remained unclear. 

Further amendments in 2020 included fines of up to KES 500,000 ($3,800) and jail terms for non-registered businesses, raising concerns about overly harsh penalties.

The bill narrowly avoided passage in June 2022, just before the national elections held in August. While President Kenyatta did not sign it into law, the re-emergence of these unresolved issues suggests further debate is likely.

Kenyan ICT professionals maintain that the true measure of success often lies beyond formal qualifications.  Others argue that the industry rewards those who can think creatively and expand their knowledge base and that validation comes from effective solutions, not just institutional approval.

“I have never worked for any client or company that cared about my qualifications, all they ever wanted is to know if I can solve problems in their organization and add value to their business,” said John Irungu, a computer programmer.

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