Member states of the East African Community (EAC) have resolved to come up with a harmonized Information Communication technology (ICT) policy to promote regional integration to yield effective business investment opportunities.
Participants at the EAC National Workshop for ICT Policy Review at a Nairobi hotel were Monday told that it was important for them to come up with a common policy for five member countries; Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
Information and Communication Permanent Secretary Dr. Bitange Ndemo in his address speech in opening the seminar said the community was looking towards deepening political, social, economic and cultural integration in order to improve the quality of life of people through increased competitiveness, value added production, trade and investment.
“As you already know we have made a lot of progress towards integration of Customs Union in East Africa and our aim when we bring the five partner countries together is to establish a common market of at least 120 million people,” he said.
The PS said once the policy becomes synchronized East Africa residents would enjoy the benefit of sending data across the borders without hitches, as the ultimate outcome of the policy would ensure a level playing field for member countries.
Dr. Ndemo said as the stakeholders discuss on the harmonization of the policy they needed to focus on issues such as market structures and regulations, effects a single market on consumers, political, economic and social considerations, institutional arrangements and prioritization areas.
Kenya’s Policy Review Framework he said was centered on the importance of ICT policy environment, interconnection costs, innovative technology and Finance, Internet Governance, Open access, ICT and violence against women, participation in international bodies and ICT and environment (E-waste).
He said the Government has had problems with innovative technologies like the M-PESA as a lot of people in the financial sector complained of encroachment in banking sector while the region generally lacked adequate representation in international bodies for failing to sponsor somebody to represent the countries at the international organizations.
He announced that the ICT Bill already has been published, was currently under review, and told the EAC stakeholders that the parliamentary committee on Information and Communication would invite them to discuss the bill in the next three weeks.
He said the bill covers E-transaction and broadcasting with a broadcasting law that would lead to proper regulation of radio and television content.
He also said the Freedom of Information Bill had reached advanced stages while the Government was also working on a new Bill called Data Protection Bill not covered in the ICT Bill.
And the EAC Secretary General who was represented at the meeting by Philip Wambugu, Director of Planning and Infrastructure at the EAC secretariat said there was need to develop a policy that would lead to creation of an environment to foster massive expansion in coverage and capacity of information infrastructure network.
He said that even though the region has witnessed growth of the mobile industry there was still limited improvement in broadband networks thus killing opportunities for development.
“The universal access to ICT network and service as an indicator is still far from being a reality,” said he.