Kenya’s cyber law, when enacted, could be adopted as a model law for other countries within the East African Community (EAC) — Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi — which are yet to enact such kind of legislation to give regulatory direction for ICT-related transactions.
Already, a process has been initiated under the auspices of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Washington’s Economic Growth Agriculture and Trade/Information Technology and Energy (EGAT/IT&E) Bureau to guide the process leading to the development of the legislation in Kenya.
The initiative, called e-Legislation policy development initiative for the East African Community (EAC) — Kenya Cyber Law model, is facilitated through the Digital Opportunity through Technology and Communications Partnerships (DOT-COM), policy component that is managed by the Academy for Educational Development (AED).
The process is run in collaboration with Kenya’s Directorate of e-Government and implemented by Afrika ICT Strategies Inc., a consulting and research firm with head offices in Washington and a subsidiary office in Kenya.
eTransactions vital to economic growth
Says Dr Mary Muiruri of Afrika ICT Strategies: “The primary objective of the project is to create model electronic transactions laws piloted in Kenya that can be customized for the East African Community partner states of Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.”
The initiative is in recognition of the fact that eTransactions laws have the potential to generate significant economic and political development for Kenya and East Africa as a whole.
Muiruri says that an e-Transactions law is critical to the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) as it will regulate M-Pesa and other electronic transactions like Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Contact Centers in which the government is currently involved in promoting the country as a competitive destination.
“Moreover, the e-Transactions Bill will lay a strong foundation for the implementation of various eGovernment and e-Commerce applications, including e-procurement, e-taxation, e-Land Registry, e-Funds Transfer among others,” she adds. Among the many benefits of an e-Commerce law for the country and fledgling e-Commerce and BPO industry is that it would enable Kenya to position itself as an ecommerce hub, by providing a comprehensive stand-alone e-Transactions law which is consistent with international best practices. This is due from the fact that under one of the key activities in the e-Legislation Policy Development Initiative project, conducted from December 2006 to March 2007, Afrika ICT Strategies Inc conducted research on digital laws for 13 countries — Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, India, New Zealand, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Egypt and Australia. The research indicated that the countries that have succeeded in utilizing e-commerce as an economic growth engine enacted stand alone e-Transactions laws.
“Kenya has been positively identified as a BPO and call center destination and the country needs to demonstrate its ability to compete with India, Philippines and China which are the leading BPO and contact center destinations, by deliberately creating an enabling legal environment,” argues Muiruri. She commends the current Kenya Communication Amendment (KCA) Bill 2007’s inclusion of e-transactions “as a great step in the right direction as it demonstrates the ministry of Information and Communication’s commitment to e-transactions.” She further says that by including e-Transactions in the converged Bill, the ministry rightly recognizes the technology convergence that has occurred in the digital world.
However, she is concerned that “while this convergence is a reality that has been recognized globally, most of the countries Kenya will be competing with in the BPO and contact center industry have not converged their laws but have stand-alone laws that regulate e-transactions.” Among the countries that have enacted such independent laws include South Africa’s Electronic Communication and Transactions Act, 2002, Dubai’s Electronic Transactions and Commerce Law No. 2/2002, India’s Information Technology Act, 2002 amended in 2006, Singapore’s Electronic Transactions Act, 2001 and Malaysia’s Electronic Commerce Bill, 2006. Others in this category are the Philippines’ Electronic Commerce Act 8792, 2000, Namibia’s Electronic Communication and Transactions Bill, 2006 as well as Egypt’s e-Signature Law No. 15/2004 “It is worth noting that despite the technology convergence, India and Malaysia have amended their eTransactions laws as recently as 2006,” said Dr Muiruri.
Other advantages of a stand-alone e-Transactions law would be its comprehensiveness as it addresses all areas of e-Transactions — e-signatures, privacy and security, econtracts, cyber crime, offences and punishments relevant to e-transactions. Such an independent legislation would provide legal clarity which are currently favoured by outsourcing countries.
This would cushion Kenya from being sidelined in favour of countries with more mature BPO industries because of lack of stand-alone laws. Other advantages include a boost to investor confidence in the country, thereby enforcing the government’s commitment and emphasis on ICT as an economic growth engine.
Those involved in the e-Legislation policy development initiative for the East African Community (EAC) have recommended that the ministry of Information and Communication “considers replacing the Information Technology part of the KCA Bill, 2007, with a comprehensive e-Transactions Bill.” Such a Bill should build on various EAC and Kenya stakeholder forums. The Bill can be sponsored by the ministry of Information and Communication, Trade, Treasury or Tourism.
Says Muiruri: “The important thing is that Kenya requires a stand-alone e-Transactions law without forgetting the need for regional trade integration. If Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda or Burundi enacts stand alone e-transactions laws, they will become the preferred outsourcing destination and Kenya could lose its competitive advantage.”
Source: The Standard