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ICT Practitioner’s Bill: The “Birth of a Profession?”

Hon. Godfrey Otsotsi is back with the Information Communication Technology Practitioners Bill 2020 which has triggered murmurs across Kenya’s technology community. The bill seeks to establish a legal framework for the training, registration, licensing, practice and standards of Information Communication Technology (ICT) professionals in Kenya.

Key Definitions

ICT Practitioner – a person who is registered as an ICT practitioner who is also licensed.

ICT practice – the practice of ICT for a fee or gain either in kind or cash.

Object and Purpose of the Bill is to:

  • Provide for the training, registration and licensing of ICT practitioners.
  • Prescribe standards for practice of ICT practitioners.
  • Establish an ICT Practitioners Institute which shall be responsible for establishing standards of professional competence and practice among members of the Institute.
  • Prescribe offences for non-compliance with the requirements of registration and licensing as set out in the Act.
  • Provide for the funds of the Institute.

The Bill will establish the ICT Practitioners Institute which will be governed by a Council. The Council shall consist of:

  • The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of ICT
  • The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and National Treasury 
  • A representative of the ICT Authority
  • A person appointed by the Cabinet Secretary to represent training institutions in Kenya
  • A person appointed by the Cabinet Secretary to represent examination bodies
  • Four people nominated by:
    • The Information Communication Technology Association of Kenya
    • The Computer Society of Kenya
    • The Telecommunication Service Providers
    • The chairperson of the Institute
  • The Chief Executive Officer who shall be appointed by the Council

Members of the Institute shall consist of each person registered as an ICT practitioner and may be categorised as fellows, associate members and other classes.

Functions of the Institute include to:

  • Establish standards of professional competence and practice amongst the members
  • Assist and educate the public in Kenya on all matters relating to the profession of ICT
  • Represent and protect members of the profession of ICT in Kenya
  • Approve courses for purposes of registration of ICT Practitioners
  • Administer examinations as may be necessary
  • Register and license ICT practitioners upon payment of prescribed fees
  • Collaborate with training institutions, professional associations and other relevant
  • Determine the fees to be charged by ICT practitioners and firms for professional services
  • Act as an arbitrator in any disputes between a licensed ICT practitioner and a client
  • Formulate policies and programs governing the profession of ICT Practitioners
  • Approve institutions offering training and professional development courses for ICT Practitioners
  • Supervise the professional conduct and practice of ICT practitioners and take disciplinary measures

The Envisioned Registration of ICT Practitioners

A person shall be eligible for registration as an ICT practitioner if:

  • Holder of at least a bachelor’s degree in ICT 
  • Holder of at least a bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering and at least one year post qualification  experience in ICT field
  • Holder of a diploma in ICT and 3 years post qualification experience in ICT field
  • Holder of a bachelor degree and 3 years post qualification experience in ICT field
  • Has demonstrated expertise  innovation or competence in ICT

Upon registration, the practitioner will be given a certificate.

Section 24 of the Bill states that a person shall not practice as an ICT practitioner without a valid practice license. The same section also requires ICT firms to be registered and licensed. A license issued by the institute shall be valid for one year, from January to December.

Despite this Bill, the question on whether ICT is a profession still lingers. Deborah Johnson while asking whether ICT can be a profession described a profession. The elements of a profession according to her list are:

  • The need to master a special, esoteric body of knowledge. This body of knowledge is usually obtained through higher education — for example, a degree in law — and is required in order to practise in the legal profession.
  • Some amount of autonomy for both the profession as a whole and the individuals in it. Professionals have the autonomy to make decisions in their daily work, justified by the fact that they are experts and this is based on their training. 
  • Connected to the autonomy of professions as a whole is the existence of a formal organisation. A profession will usually be governed by a unifying body that is recognised by the government. This body may have several roles, such as setting standards for certification and having the authority to expel members from the profession.
  • A profession will also generally have a code of ethics that both sets the standards of behaviour for its members and signals to members of the public what to expect when they engage the services of a professional.
  • Finally, professions are typically understood to fulfil a social function. This will often be connected to a social good, such as health or justice or concerned with more general social benefits, such as providing the technologies and infrastructures to enable society to function effectively. In general, the idea is that professionals serve the interests of the public.

Keeping that in mind, one difficulty that Ms. Johnson noted in calling ICT a profession is that it is difficult to know exactly what ICT is. ICT covers a wide variety of activities and is, to a large extent, an umbrella term. The term brings everyone on board but purposive interpretation of the definition will save the day. 

We expect more consultation on the Bill and debates from proponents and opponents but care should be taken that the bill does not end up killing innovation by locking out brilliant people without a bachelor’s degree from the practice of ICT. Care should also be taken to ensure we don’t end up with a law that cannot be enforced due to lack of consensus or proper definition of the term ICT and consequently lack of proper scoping regarding who an ICT practitioner is.

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