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There's little in BBI for ICT

Tuesday December 3 2019

By JOHN WALUBENGO
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I finally spared some time and got around to reading the long BBI report – but from an ICT perspective. Out of its 156 pages, covering ten chapters or thematic areas, the BBI report featured ICTs under only four clauses as outlined below.

In Chapter 5, titled Divisive Elections, the report has a clause 88(k) that states as follows:

Reform present electoral system to ensure it is simple, accurate, verifiable, secure, accountable and transparent as mandated by Article 86 of the Constitution.

It is not directly talking about, but only insinuating, ICTs. And we have been through this path before, courtesy of the famous Kriegler report that explicitly recommended digitising our electoral systems in order to enhance the transparency, accuracy and accountable desired in our election outcomes.

Since 2010, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has progressively undertaken to digitise the electoral process but our legislature has deliberately enacted laws to ensure more and more analogue systems prevail.

The most recent change happened just before the second 2017 Presidential election in which Parliament technically changed the law to allow IEBC to run elections under the same conditions that prevailed before the 2010 Constitution and precipitated the 2007 post election violence.

So there is nothing new in this clause. The bigger issue is whether Parliament would want to make our electoral process more or less transparent by way of digitisation.

The next ICT clause comes in at Chapter 8, which focuses on corruption. Clause 144 states as follows:

Digitisation — Make Kenya a 100 percent e-services nation by digitising all Government services, processes, payment systems, and record keeping and ensure they are secured from criminal tampering.

This is an excellent recommendation but, again, nothing new being put on the table.

Since 2013 when the Jubilee administration took over under the slogan ‘digital-government’, tremendous progress has been made in digitizing public sector services.

eCitizen, IFMIS, NTSA, utility payments (water/power) and a whole lot of other initiatives at national and county levels have gone the extra mile to make access to public services much easier and convenient for the citizen.

DIGITIZED CORRUPTION

The challenge is that a good chunk of these digital initiatives have actually moved corruption from the analogue to the digital age. We have essentially digitised corruption rather than reduced it.

So we have a problem that goes beyond being digital.

Chapter 9 on Devolution also mentions ICTs under the health services. Clause 163 (d) states as follows:

NHIF administrative costs should be cut down sharply through using technology, cutting down on corruption and increasing productivity. These administrative costs should be at 5–10 percent.

This is yet another excellent proposition, which has already happened - but little corresponding benefits.

The NHIF processes are relatively digitised but the agency continues to experience poor services, fake insurance claims and retains its special place in the annual auditor general reports for mismanagement.

Who will actually come and save us from ourselves, considering change of government, digitalisation, prayers, EACC, DCI, DPP, Judiciary and a host of other agencies have not?

Finally, Chapter 10 on Security has clause 186 (e) that states as follows:

Cybersecurity — At a minimum, we must fundamentally strengthen our national cybersecurity capabilities, particularly because our economy is increasingly digital and online. Our ambition to remain a regional financial centre and for our people to find work in and through technology demands the continuous strengthening of national cybersecurity skills, processes, laws, and institutions.

This is another excellent proposition and Kenya has already passed three critical laws related to safeguarding our digital space – the Access to Information Act (2016), the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act (2018) and most recently the Data Protection Act (2019).

So in terms of legislative frameworks we are basically competitive – despite a few pending injunctions in court on some of the provisions. What remains to be seen is how the various offices overseeing these activities will be staffed and empowered to deliver.

In summary, ICT is a cross-cutting agenda and perhaps the report would have done more justice to it by outlining its specific role for each of the ten agenda items identified.

Mr Walubengo is a lecturer at Multimedia University of Kenya, Faculty of Computing and IT.

Email: [email protected], Twitter: @Jwalu