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Safaricom welcomes ICT law

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 7 – Kenya’s largest mobile phone operator Safaricom has embraced the Information Communication Technology Act saying it would improve operations in the telecommunications sector.

Chief Executive Michael Joseph said the Act has allowed e-commerce.

“The biggest benefit is the clarity on e-commerce; that you can do electronic signature for a public company like Safaricom, we can send communication to our shareholders via emails, sign things via email and possibly pay dividends via M-Pesa,” he said.

The Act seeks to harmonise the laws and policies in the ICT industry, which is the fastest growing industry in the country. Among key areas that the legislation will cover include intellectual property rights and e-commerce issues.

The mobile phone operator said the Act does not adversely affect its M-Pesa money transfer service.

“There is no reference to it. It talks about e-commerce and it clarifies the things you can do such as electronic signatures and things like that but there is nothing specifically on M-Pesa”

Mr Joseph however urged the government to review critical areas in the Act that stakeholders have raised concern with.

He said: “We made many recommendations to those who drafted the bill which we would have liked to see in the Bill. There are some things that we feel are anti-competition that we will need clarity on.”

Commenting on the ensuing debate on whether the government had passed the Act to censor the media, Mr Joseph said that there was need for clarity on the Act.

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“It is important for us to have freedom of the media. I also think it is important to have responsibility in the media, especially noting the post election violence.”

During the troubled period, the government banned live broadcasts and call-in shows, citing concerns about national security.

Mr Joseph said: “There was a threat on us to close down or shut down the short message service (SMS) because of the messages that were being sent through our networks and at that point it was very unclear whether they could do that or not.”

“We need to have that clarity otherwise you can declare a national emergency which is really national chaos and then close us down, which is not really what we want to see,” he said.

The ICT Act in its current form allows for the seizure of broadcasting equipment, a tight control on media programming, an arbitrary denial of licenses and frequencies and restrictions on cross ownership of media outlets.

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