By ALIN-EA NAIROBI, Kenya, 31 January 2004
Kenya needs a workable and all-inclusive ICT policy and this is only possible through a partnership approach. This was the conclusion of a stakeholder’s forum held in Nairobi in November 2003 that brought together members of the government, the private sector and civil society organizations interested in ICT policy issues to deliberate on an all inclusive information society in Kenya and Kenya’s participation at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
Dr Kulubi from the National Communications Secretary (NCS), informed participants that the ICT policy in Kenya was almost complete. The development of a comprehensive national ICT policy was crucial as the telecommunication industry with a high turn-over of up to sh.50 billion (over 650 million USD) per year was a very important sector, he added. He further informed participants that plans were underway to connect all post offices in the country to the internet to enable them be more actively information age.
Jan Mutai, who was then Secretary General of the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) but has now retired, told participants that a national policy should be well marketed and articulated and in this regards, he said the Kenyan government should seek to integrate the views of the wider national community.
Briefing participants on Uganda’s experience, Hon. Mugambe J.K, Member of Parliament in Uganda informed participants that Uganda has had an ICT policy since 2002. He urged the civil society and the public to know how to work together with the parliament.
The forum also stressed on the need to cooperate as a region and suggested the formation of an East Africa caucus as one of the ways to achieve this.
During the forum, the civil society organizations (CSOs) presented a declaration and recommendations towards an all-inclusive ICT policy in Kenya. This had been prepared and drafted during a training workshop organized for civil society organizations in Kenya. The training was based on the ICT policy and CSOs training curriculum developed by the Association for Progressive Communication (APC) in partnership with Commonwealth Telecommunication Organization (CTO).
In the declaration, CSOs recognized that ICTs have an important role in the alleviation of poverty and creation of employment and wealth and that civil society plays an important role in the development and formulation of national ICT policies.
The declaration came up with recommendations on capacity building, affordability, intellectual property rights, cultural and linguistic diversity, community media, traditional modes of communication and convergence, local content, free and open source, e-governance and privacy, security and civil liberties. The CSOs urged concerted efforts towards advancing gender and social equality in access, benefit and active participation in ICTs by strengthening the economic power, access to education, and freedom of mobility and speech of marginalized groups including youth, people with disabilities and women. They also stressed the need to recognize and support free and open source software which, empowers everyone equally to create, use, modify and copy software as opposed to proprietary software solutions.
The two events were organized the Kenya CSOs WSIS caucus whose secretariat is APC member in Kenya, the Arid Lands Information Network-Eastern Africa, with support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). They attracted over fifty participants from different civil society organizations and private and public sectors in the East African Sub region. The purpose of the stakeholders forum was to create awareness and share experience on the national ICT policy development processes and lessons learnt and to facilitate partnerships and collaboration between the CSOs, the government and the private sector in the national ICT policy development process.
The Kenya Civil Society WSIS Caucus is a consortium of CSOs in Kenya working towards the realization of an all inclusive information society in Kenya. It was founded during the ICT Policy and Civil Society in Africa workshop organized by the APC in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 2002.