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Why Communications Authority of Kenya needs quick check up

By Kris Senanu | January 18th 2015

As Kenyans grapple with the news of failed digital migration transmission, concerns are growing over our commitment to ICT global competitiveness.

In June last year, the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) was instituted. A month later would witness appointment of a new board and transition of the core management team for seamless and continual running of the regulator’s operations.

This was critical in realisation of the new mandate aligned to the Kenya Information Communication Amendment Act 2013. With this, it was expected that the decision making process, by virtue of being an independent agency, would be faster and therefore fast-track implementation of communication related policies.

Settling into this new role however seems to be taking longer than anticipated, thanks to a disruptive change management process that has resulted in abrasive relations between CAK board and management.

In close succession, after institution of the board would have been the alignment of the management structure to better reflect the regulatory function of the body.

This new structure involved the renaming of director positions to chief managers and those of their assistants to senior managers. They also introduced three new positions for general managers which were advertised externally.

The board’s decision to advertise for the aforementioned posts externally, while their occupants are still in office without the due recognition of the Communications Act which allowed for the smooth transition of staff from CCK to CAK, coupled by the need to recognise the skills and expertise of the regulator was wrong.

And a further disregard of the talent correspondence then marked the beginning of what has been a cold war between the two core parties responsible for ensuring the deployment of communications infrastructure and services.

The matter, which has already been dealt by the legal institutions is still awaiting a final deliberation and hopefully, conclusion. Referring to clause 37.(1) of the Communications Act; On the commencement of this Act-(a) Any person who was an employee of the former’ Commission immediately before the Commencement of this Act shall be deemed to be an employee of the Authority on the same terms and conditions of service.

Resolving stalemate

This begs the question? Did the board act within its mandate in the restructuring process? And what recourse then do we stakeholders have to ensure that the stalemate is resolved in due time to meet key obligations set out for the year 2015?

Whilst the biggest question may look like it is that of the fate of the former Commission staff, the greatest worry is that of stakeholders who have been readying for the implementation of regulations that facilitate our operations and impact on every Kenyan- a key catalyst in our economic growth.

Six months after the transition, we are yet to be party to the gamut of promises it brings including that of the implementation of the Cyber Security Masterplan that is critical to securing the online environment for the citizenry, industry and the international business community. This should be done through the provision of data security, online privacy and protection and enhance trade.

There is the establishment of the Universal Service Access Council, whose role is to give counsel on various initiatives to subsidise the cost of ICT infrastructure roll out and expansion to un-served and underserved areas.

Closely related is the much awaited digital migration and legislation on thin sim technology which have an almost direct effect and obvious benefits on the end consumer.

While the regulator is making effort to ensure the continual delivery of services without interruption in a seemingly seamless transition, its’ failure to settle downtime is been felt and will possibly have far reaching consequences on its credibility and therefore impact.

The industry and Kenyans as a whole require trust in the regulator as a crucial step to bring the essential elements of an effective communication sector.

However, this year bears significance as the global digital migration deadline is in June. July also bears the weight of Kenya lobbying to host the Africa Domain System Forum as well as the halfway mark to conduct health check on the implementation of the Regulatory Strategic Plan covering 2013-2018 creatively themed under Access to and use of Information and Communication services by all in Kenya by the year 2018.

The industry’s greatest fear is that if the due process is not followed in the transition, more time will be spent on housekeeping matters as opposed to the pursuit of the development.

The Technology Service Providers of Kenya supports the concept of a transition and believe these changes are a good start but only when and if the conduct and process are as inclusive, consultative and transparent.

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