As the Christmas Season kicks in and the year comes to an end, it is customary to do stock taking of what worked and what failed during the year.
It was quite a busy year from policy, legislative and regulatory perspectives with three key ICT related policies and acts being put on the table during the year.
The first one was the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act 2018, which demonstrated one of the best public stakeholder engagements right from the conception stages through to the parliamentary stages.
Despite this, some parliamentarians felt the need to sneak in clauses that supposedly were to deal with notorious bloggers, who would often record their private lives and subsequently float the same on the Internet.
This was quite ill-advised because there are already several libel laws to deal with this type of privacy intrusion or character assassination.
Eventually a fairly good piece of cybercrime law now finds most of its clauses under constitutional court review and injunctions largely due to MPs’ paranoia about their private lives.
Other pieces of legislations include the Copyright Amendment Bill and the Data Protection Bill that are at various stages of completion.
The Copyright Amendment Bill aims to bring the old 2001 Copyright Act up to speed with the modern technological realities of the 21st Century.
Specifically, the role and obligations of internet intermediaries and content providers such as ISPs, Facebook, Google, YouTube, online media companies amongst others are brought into focus in the Copyright Amendment Bill.
The Data Protection Bill, on the other hand, seeks to introduce a legal framework for balancing often-conflicting needs for data privacy against those demonstrated by business enterprises in their quest for profit.
Technological developments particularly over the last 10 years have seen businesses put profit or shareholder value way above constitutional requirements to protect citizen privacy.
It was hoped that 2018 would be the year the Data Protection Act sees the light of the day but this may now happen in the first quarter of 2019.
Another key event that captured the minds of ICT pundits in 2018 was the blockchain and crypto currency phenomena.
The crypto buzz was fever pitch early in the year when one bitcoin was exchanging for almost 20,000 USD. Obviously this has toned down as reality kicked in and the market corrected itself and the bitcoin currency shaved off 80% of its original value.
This was indeed good and necessary because now the true value of the blockchain technology – rather than the purely cyrpto aspects – can begin to gain traction without too much distraction from crypto evangelists.
Early in 2018, the government appointed a Blockchain & AI Taskforce to particularly look into the value proposition aspects of Blockchain & AI, particularly from the perspective of bringing transparency and accuracy in government-related transactions.
We may not adequately conclude the 2018 review without mentioning the regulatory landscape.
In general, the communications regulator remained steadfast in providing a conducive climate for investment and innovations within the sector. This is easily seen in the quarterly reports as Kenya continues to make strides in its journey towards becoming the Silicon Savannah.
That said, the regulator continues to be challenged by the question of how to deal with Safaricom’s dominance vis-à-vis its positive and negative impact on the Kenyan economy.
Perhaps 2019 is the year when the regulator will finally find an amicable way out of this tight question and resolve it. Only time will tell.
Have a Merry Christmas and a happy 2019.
Mr Walubengo is a lecturer at Multimedia University of Kenya, Faculty of Computing and IT. Email: [email protected], Twitter: @Jwalu