ICT Cabinet Secretary Joseph Mucheru has distanced himself from the controversial ICT Practitioners Bill passed by Parliament last week. The Bill requires professionals in the sector to have a degree to practice.
Mr Mucheru termed the Bill as a ‘surprise’ of the political season and stated that he will do his part in safeguarding the sector against the tenets of the Bill viewed as retrogressive by industry stakeholders.
“This ICT Bill is a private member’s Bill,” he said. “As a ministry, we continuously fought against this bill in its various forms.”
The ICT Practitioners Bill 2020 passed by Parliament last week was proposed by nominated Member of Parliament Godfrey Osotsi, who is also the CEO and director at Businet Systems Ltd, a firm that provides training and consultancy services in the ICT sector.
The Bill seeks to establish an ICT Institute to register and license ICT practitioners and collect membership fees.
The Institute will also be responsible for approving ICT curriculum, setting and administering examinations and arbitrating disputes between practitioners and their clients.
The Bill further introduces minimum qualifications that individuals must attain to receive certification by the Institute, failure to which they will be barred from practising.
“A person shall not be entitled to recover a fee for ICT services unless such person is licensed under this Act,” states Section 27 of the ICT Practitioners Bill 2020.
“Every person eligible to be registered as an ICT practitioner may apply in the prescribed form to the Registrar for registration in the register, and every such application shall be accompanied by the prescribed fee,” reads the Bill in part.
The Bill has been on parliament’s legislative agenda since 2017 despite opposition from stakeholders in the sector, who see it as an attempt by professional bodies to lock out freelancers from lucrative tenders and job opportunities.
In 2017, the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) issued a notice urging members of the public to seek ICT services only from those practitioners registered by the authority and with a compliance certificate issued by the regulator.
“The authority is mandated to grant licences to operating entities and persons as well as regulate the provision of services within the sector,” read the statement from CA in part. “Members of the public are hereby advised to only obtain or procure ICT services from persons and entities in possession of valid licenses and compliance certificates issued by CA for the current period.”
Last month Members of Parliament praised the Bill as a means of introducing standardisation in the country’s ICT labour market and establishing a reliable database for the Kenya Revenue Authority’s (KRA) efforts to collect digital services taxes.
“This Bill will ensure that the KRA systems will be able to know those who are collecting so much from their talents and, in turn, increase revenue collection,” said Kilifi South Member of Parliament Richard Chonga during a debate on the Bill.
“Everyone seems to be going to ICT and we have young people who have done data science and others are doing artificial intelligence,” he said.
However, opponents of the Bill state that a big portion of experts in the ICT profession are self-taught such as software developers who develop their skills from open-source coding schools that might not be recognised by the Kenyan curriculum.
The Bill also comes at a time the government is pushing for the adoption of coding lessons in primary schools to grow the country’s skills and knowledge base in the lucrative sector.