NAIROBI, Kenya Jan 5 – Although the newly enacted Kenya Communications Amendment Act 2008 has several controversial clauses that are seen as an attempt by the government to muzzle the media, IT industry players have welcomed it saying it will facilitate the growth of the sector.
Kenya ICT Federation Director Kevit Desai told Capital Business that the Act legalises e-commerce which has the capacity to boost economic activities and in turn contribute about three percent to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in a few years.
"The e-amendment legislation is purely for commercial purposes. It enhances our ability to as a nation to communicate to the end of the world and transact business across the globe. This is will open up opportunities in calls centres and Business Process Outsourcing," he explained adding that people in the rural areas would also benefit from selling their products anywhere in the world.
President Mwai Kibaki assented to the Bill on January 2, saying the new law would address "issues of critical importance to economic development particularly in regulating electronic transactions such as the money transfer services. "
"I have carefully considered the concerns that were raised by the media which mainly relate to Section 88 which is not part of the Kenya Communications Amendment Bill, 2008. Therefore, by refusing to assent to this Bill, I will not have addressed this concern of the media," the Head of State said in his statement sent to newsrooms.
President Kibaki pointed out that the contentious clause which gives the government power to restrict media operations and which also gives Internal Security Minister power to seize broadcasting equipment during a state of emergency is contained in a separate Act, the Kenya Communications Act, 1998.
The recently passed law now recognises an electronic signature and it is needed to manage and control e-commerce risks as well as remove (e-commerce) barriers that Kenyans experience while transacting businesses abroad.
Mr Desai cited the local tourism sector where online bookings account for only three percent compared to 80 percent and 50 percent recorded in the US and Europe respectively.
"With the enactment of the legislation, it opens up the possibilities of doing 100 percent across electronic means," he said.
Currently, Kenya loses out on many opportunities and market share in sectors such as health, education and agriculture and as it lacks legislations that support online transactions.
He however expressed disappointment at the integration of the e-commerce bit with that of the broadcasting services issues.
"We have always insisted that the Bill be looked separately because the issues pertaining to the media are different and require to be addressed differently. It was very worrying for us to realise that one half of that (Bill) was not correct," he stressed.
Mr Desai said there\’s need to immediately address the contentious issues raised by the media so that the country can have a collaborative, all inclusive private sector that can begin to take advantage of the e-commerce law.