My #KeSIG2021 Experience – A Cheat Sheet for Future Students

Cherie Oyier

By Cherie Oyier.

Earlier this year 2021, I read a book by Austin Kleon titled, “Show Your Work.” It is a tiny book that I think everyone should read. Anyway, this book’s main objective is to encourage more people to show the behind-the-scenes or backend processes that go into achieving final results. Austin claims that showing the backend processes not only gives the creator an opportunity to see and appreciate their progress, it also inspires others of the possibility of success and opens the floor for feedback and ideas on how to improve the process for future creators. It is on this basis that I am inspired to write about my experience as a Kenya School of Internet Governance (#KeSIG2021) cohort. 

I trace my experience back to when the call for applications was made. The call for applications is made annually via the KeSIG website and then it makes its way into various social media platforms through re-sharing. I, for instance, saw the call in one of the WhatsApp groups I am a member of. This, therefore, goes to show that it is important to join communities or groups of like-minded people where you are likely to see such updates. However, if you are yet to meet such people, worry not, you can always check the KeSIG website or better yet follow them on their different social media pages to stay updated. The application form comes as a Google form that is easy to navigate and fill. The questions on the form require that you demonstrate why you want to take up the course, what plans or contributions you intend to make in the Internet Governance space post the course among other details. I strongly recommend that applicants provide well-thought, honest and contextual answers. The application and admission process is very competitive thus you want your application to stands out and to give recruiters as much context as to why you deserve a slot, therefore generic answers will not favor you. 

Successful applicants will receive an onboarding email that also includes the course program. It is imperative that you regularly check your email for this. As this cohort was held online due to the pandemic, the introductory class was done before the e-learning portal was open for access by students. In this introductory class, the faculty got to introduce themselves, train us on how to navigate the e-learning platform, and finally give us access to the platform. The e-learning platform is easy to navigate therefore you are guaranteed to have a great user experience, or at least I did.

Once admitted, we were able to start our self-paced learning for a week. During this period, we got access to six lessons including external links to further resources and material, graded forum discussions, and assignments after each lesson. For me, one of the best parts of this cohort was the creation of a WhatsApp group at the onset. Membership of the group included students and the faculty and this created a space to seek support and an opportunity for horizontal exchange of experiences, views, and observations freely. When the course got more technical as we made progress, this group came in handy with participants discussing their challenges and offering valuable guidance. Interaction within the group was a good icebreaker to creating new networks especially since the essence of the cohort is to create new communities to lend their voices in the Internet Governance space. The fact that the cohort accommodates participants from different disciplines, means that members offer diverse perspectives during discussions that build on the quality of discussions.  The group also acts as a constant accountability partner. Many are the times members checked in to find out if all members had submitted assignments and most nights there was someone counting down to the submission deadline. 

The KeSIG and KICTANet faculty provided valuable support through the group as well. I like to think of the faculty members as open and transparent like the internet – all pun intended! Faculty members were more like peers and very approachable. They answered our sometimes very amateur questions without reservation, challenged and pushed our intellectual limits, and most importantly they were very open to learning from us. 

After each lesson, students are to complete a graded forum discussion and assignments. These forums seek opinions on the topic covered. My recommendation to future students, therefore, is to read the resources provided for each lesson and go the extra mile of finding more resources on the Internet in order to engage better. Since the time for submission of the assignments is limited, ensure to actively set aside time each day to complete your reading and assignments on time. Further, please actively participate in the forum discussions as these discussions add value to the overall Internet Governance space.

In the second week, students are required to attend live online sessions for three days. During this time, the faculty invites industry players to share their thoughts and experiences on different issues. The sessions are open to participants to engage with the industry leaders through questions, feedback, and opinions. Active participation is key as it enables you to grasp concepts better and seek clarity on current issues happening in a particular industry. 

The final quiz is made accessible to students on the third day of the final week. This quiz is a consolidation of questions that cut across all six lessons. The quiz is timed so you might sweat a little but it is totally doable if you study and attend live sessions. The results of the quiz are generated in real-time and are accessible on the platform, students are also able to track their grades, and progress through the platform as they progress. 

The last day of KeSIG always coincides with the Kenya Internet Governance Forum (KeIGF) day. Students get to attend the forum and interact with more industry players for the entire day. Upon completion of the course, students are issued with shareable certificates and they can go on to engage and contribute in discussions that shape Internet Governance.

The Internet is an integral part of our day-to-day lives, it is an enabler of our fundamental rights and freedoms and thus we each have a responsibility to engage in conversations that shape and develop it at any level. Our voices mold the Internet into what we want it to be and this is why KeSIG is intent on introducing more diverse voices in Internet Governance discourses through this course. Therefore, any aspiring student should consider this as a free cheat sheet on how to join and successfully complete the KeSIG course because your voice is needed and it matters. 

I hope this highlight of the behind-the-scenes workings gives you an insight into what to expect and inspires you to join the course. I wish you the very best of luck!

Cherie Oyier is a 2021 Kenya School of Internet Governance (KeSIG) fellow and is also an advocate of the High Court of Kenya practicing at Oyier and Company Advocates. She regularly publishes articles on issues falling at the intersection of law and technology via her LinkedIn account and is passionate about contributing to Internet Governance policy discourse.

Why Parliament must not pass the anti-pornography bill

By Winfred Gakii.

Early 2021, Garissa Township MP Aden Duale tabled a bill to criminalize pornography. The Computer Misuse and Cybercrime (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was gazetted on 16th April 2021 and read for the first time on 9th June 2021. The bill seeks to amend the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act, 2020, which is currently being challenged at the Court of Appeal as unconstitutional.  In his presentation on the purpose of the bill, Duale states that the objective of the bill is to protect children from exposure to inappropriate sexual content. 

The Departmental Committee on Communication, Information and Innovation received two memoranda from the public participation call; one joint memorandum from civil societies, including ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa and another one from the Communications Authority of Kenya. Both memoranda warned that the bill violates freedom of expression and by and large recommended deletion of the anti-pornography clauses and those that criminalize content that might cause people to commit suicide or join extreme religious or cult activities. The Committee on 4th August 2021 recommended the Bill for tabling in Parliament with only slight textual amendments, and recommendation for deletion of the anti-terrorism clause. This clause criminalizes the publication of electronic messages aimed at recruiting members of the public to terrorist activities and imposes a fine of up to twenty million and an imprisonment term of up to 25 years. A similar offence under Section 30A of the Prevention of Terrorism Act imposes a maximum imprisonment term of 14 years. The offence is improperly canvassed under the bill since it is already an offence in Kenya elsewhere. The clause also risks exposing individuals to excessive criminal liability since, with the same facts, one could be charged under both laws. The bill is currently ripe for second reading. 

The bill

The Computer Misuse and Cybercrime (Amendment) Bill, 2021 introduces, among others, the offences of production, possession and publication of pornography through a computer system. It further criminalizes downloading, distributing, transmitting, disseminating, circulating, delivering, exhibiting, lending for gain, exchanging, barter, selling or offering for sale, letting on hire or offering to let on hire, offering in any way, or making available in any way from a telecommunications apparatus pornography. 

The bill also mandates the National Computer and Cybercrimes Coordination Committee to recommend some websites to be rendered inaccessible within the Republic of Kenya. It further prohibits the use of electronic media to promote terrorism, extreme religious or cult activities. 

The vague definition of pornography

Every offence must be clearly defined to delineate prohibited conduct from benign actions. Additionally, the offence must be defined precisely to guide the courts in determining criminal cases before them; and the police in enforcing the law. Even more importantly, the clarity enables the public to regulate their conduct accordingly. Finally, a concise definition of offences ensures that legitimate conduct is not curtailed, especially when it comes to legitimate speech. 

Pornography is defined in the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime (Amendment) Bill to include any data, whether visual or audio, that depicts persons engaged in sexually explicit conduct. This definition is open to interpretation and police will have discretion on who to arrest and charge based on their individual interpretation of what constitutes ‘sexually explicit conduct. The phrase ‘sexually explicit’ is so subjective that it will lead to inconsistent application of the provision. The overbroad nature of its definition will open it up for abuse. 

Even more alarming is the clause that mandates the National Computer and Cybercrimes Coordination Committee to recommend websites to be rendered inaccessible. The Committee comprises mostly representatives from the security sector including internal security, Kenya Defence Forces, National Police Service, National Intelligence Service and Director of Public Prosecutions. There are no criteria established for determining what websites should be blocked. Related, there is the likelihood of recommending blockage of websites with legitimate content. This proposed procedure contravenes international law as content moderation practices by the government have to incorporate judicial oversight as a check. Removal of websites will interfere with the free flow of information online violating the right to freedom of expression and access to information. 

Privacy concerns 

The bill criminalizes both the demand and the supply of pornography. It prohibits content that adults can view in the privacy of their homes or gadgets. It also criminalizes the private sharing of pornographic content as well as possession. The enforcement of the provisions of the bill on the demand side will invariably violate the right to privacy. This is because efficient enforcement of the law will inevitably necessitate surveillance of the public’s communications and searches of their homes. Heavy censorship and surveillance of communications renege on the democratic promise of the 2010 Constitution.

Punitive penalties 

The offences under the bill attract a penalty of up to KES 20 million or an imprisonment term of up to five years, or both. The penalty and the imprisonment term are extremely disproportionate given the conduct they seek to deter.

Limitation of freedom of expression under the Constitution 

While freedom of expression is not an absolute right, its limitation must comply with the Constitutional criteria in place. Freedom of expression can only be limited under the Constitution of Kenya when it relates to propaganda for war; incitement to violence; hate speech; or advocacy of hatred that constitutes ethnic incitement, vilification of others or incitement to cause harm; or is discriminatory. There is also responsibility imposed on individuals that, in exercising freedom of expression, they shall respect the rights and reputation of others. Any limitation must be provided for in law, serve a legitimate aim and be necessary and proportional in a democratic state. 

What is the legitimate aim of prohibiting pornography? International law recognizes the protection of children as a legitimate ground for prohibiting pornography. The Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe, otherwise known as the Budapest Convention, encourages states to criminalize the production, possession and distribution of child pornography. The African Union Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection, which has not come into force yet, also only obligates states to criminalize child pornography. Child pornography is already criminalized under Section 24 of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act, 2018 and is punishable by a penalty of up to KES 20 million, and an imprisonment term of 25 years or both. Protection of children is therefore sufficiently addressed in the Act. 

It is worth noting that the Uganda Constitutional Court on 13th August 2021 declared the anti-pornography provisions of the Anti-Pornography Act, 2014 unconstitutional. Besides the vague definition of pornography, the court stated that the Act did not elicit the legislative objective for the criminalization of pornography. The court noted that the provisions must be connected to the objectives they aim to achieve; a link which is clearly missing in the Kenyan Bill. There are lesser ways of restricting access to pornographic material by children that do not include a blanket ban on pornography with potentially significant and mass violation of free expression. Such include a requirement for companies to avail blocking or filtering software that requires the activating user to make an informed choice on the settings. The activating user would ideally be the parent or guardian. This form of regulation is self-imposed, and less detrimental to fundamental freedoms than government-imposed regulations.

The Computer Misuse and Cybercrime (Amendment) Bill will certainly create a chilling effect on freedom of expression. Given the vague definition of pornography and the harsh penalties, people will rather err on the side of caution and self-censor than face the full force of the law. Unfortunately, even those individuals producing, sharing or publishing legitimate content such as materials of scientific value, literature, learning or public interest are exposed adversely by the bill since they can only raise the defence during prosecution. This means that one can only invoke the defence long after they have been subjected to arrest and charges. As such, the bill will fundamentally stifle free speech; which is essential to a democratic state such as Kenya’s.

The up-shot? The anti-pornography bill is a frontal attack on freedom of expression and the National Assembly must not allow it to see the light of day. The MPs have the responsibility to protect the fundamental freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution in their delegated power. 

Winfred Gakii is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and Programme Officer- Civic Space at ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, and a Kenya School of Internet Governance 2021 alumni.

New voices at Kenya School of Internet Governance 2021

KeSIG class in session

The Kenya School of Internet Governance (KeSIG)  is the premier training platform to grow new voices in the internet governance space in Kenya and also serves the larger African continent. KeSIG, convened annually from 2016, is held just before the Kenya Internet Government Forum. The 6th edition was held from 10th – 23rd September 2021.

KeSIG training acts as an internet governance training Bootcamp and includes aspects of digital inclusion in internet governance to enable the cohort to engage in ICT and digital ecosystem systemic enhancement including the policymaking process. KeSIG has an elaborate curriculum delivered via an online learning platform, instructor-led discussions, and live insights from industry experts. The main topics are

  1. The evolution of the Internet,
  2. Internet Design Principles,
  3. Introduction to Internet Governance,
  4. National and transnational organisations’ role in governing the internet,
  5. Role of private sector – passive observer or active contributor?
  6. Selected key global Internet governance Issues,
  7. Community networks and citizen engagement models.

The final three days of the learning program include sessions where industry speakers engage with students from a practitioner’s perspective as well as instructor-led discussion forums.

Prior to the development of the KeSIG learning program before the year  2015, there were many requests by new voices on the Internet Governance space to get induction or training on ICT policy making and advocacy. Since Schools of Internet Governance (SIGs) have become an acceptable model for induction, KICTANet responded to this need and introduced KeSIG in the East African Region. KeSIG was the first country-led SIG initiative in Africa.

The selection process of both faculty and students since inception ensures that participation is inclusive. The criteria for selection include affirmative action to include persons from marginalized groups such as the Counties, PWDs, state and non-state actors, diverse professionals drawn from various multi-stakeholder groups, gender equality, geographical representation, those from low income,  rural areas, AND LGBTQI+.

Applications are received through a Google form that is shared on KICTANet’s mailing list, website, and social media platforms. The community is encouraged to widely share the application form, downstream to get as diverse applicants as possible.

KeSIG has over the years developed leading voices in the internet governance space both regionally and internationally. It is expected that this year’s fellows will become ambassadors and champions for digital inclusion including internet governance after the training as has been demonstrated by previous cohorts.

This year’s process began with identifying trainers, industry speakers and updating the curriculum and e-learning platform. A rigorous candidate screening was undertaken and an induction session led to the KESIG 2021 kick-off. Students were taken through an induction on how to use the e-learning platform and the expectations of the course on the 10th of Sept. 2021.

KeSIG 2021 was conducted using a combination of the KICTANet developed e-learning platform and online interaction through zoom video call. Several industrial leaders, policy practitioners, and implementers had a chance to interact with the students. KeSIG 2021 received a total of 342 applications across 21 counties in Kenya and 8 from 5 countries in Africa after which 115 individuals were shortlisted for the training. Students who successfully completed the program were 74. This year’s school had 8 industry speakers deliver content touching on various topics to demystify the Internet governance process.

  1. Overview of the course, John Walubengo.
  2. Nicole Gregory – British High Commission, Head of People and Partnerships
  3. History of the internet, and Internet Infrastructure development. Paul Muchene – Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
  4. Content moderation, Sarah Muyonga and Desmond Mushi – Facebook
  5. Private Sector’s Role in Internet Governance, Rosemary Kimwatu
  6. National/Transnational Organizations role in Internet Governance, Ali Hussein
  7.  Role of the regulator in internet governance  – Robin Busolo, Communications Authority of Kenya.

After an engaging two weeks of study, the students will be issued certificates. In addition, the students also shared their experience at the graduation ceremony held at the Internet Governance Forum and also through blogs published by the students.

Program Evaluation

After evaluation of the training,  57% of students responded that they were very satisfied with the overall experience, and 34% were satisfied. 47% asked for more experts and industrial speakers to talk to address them, while 46% felt the training should be longer.

The report of the KeSIG 2021 is available here. The program is available here.

Blog by Mwendwa Kivuva with contributions from Rosemary Kimwatu, and Judy Okite.

Exclusivity, Universal access, and meaningful connectivity. Is Kenya achieving it?

Access and inclusivty panel moderated by Bob Ochieng

Kenya just concluded the Kenya Internet Governance Forum, KeIGF2021 took a dive into what it takes to achieve a united internet locally as globally and what could possibly hinder this. Themed; United Internet, the hybrid forum was hosted for the 14th time since 2008.

The whole day forum, hosted by KiCTANet covered three main topics; inclusion, universal access as well as meaningful connectivity.

Opening remarks were made by Director-General, Communications Authority of Kenya, Mercy Wanjau “to create a united internet we need to narrow the digital divide”, which the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed a non-inclusive digital ecosystem here in Kenya. In order to achieve a united internet; all people should have access to reliable, stable, and most importantly affordable internet access.

She said, “The internet has been a critical tool for social change, During the #COVID19 the internet has provided a solution to the challenges brought about by the pandemic. It has tremendously improved life in all aspects.”

She added that it is no doubt that the internet has evolved to become a critical tool for social change, as it has and continues to shape human life.Covid-19 pandemic has made this evident, as the internet provides solutions to the challenges brought forth by the pandemic.

Mercy Wanjau holds these sentiments and believes that a call to action for regulators to ensure universal internet for all people is of paramount importance.

Executive Chief Officer of the Kenya Network Information Centre (KeNIC) and administer of .ke domain names system in Kenya, Joel Karubiu, explained that as KeNIC manages and administers .ke their role is to ensure that secure, reliable, and accessible internet is provided to the .ke internet ecosystem. Adding that internet access is no longer seen as a luxury but as a basic human right, and that unstable internet connections caused by unreliable electricity infrastructure poses a threat to its access.

The day was a beehive of activities ranging from online safety to data protection and legislation.

IGF is an open and inclusive multi-stakeholder forum where public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance, such as the Internet’s sustainability, robustness, security, stability, and development are discussed.

The United Nations Secretary-General formally announced the establishment of the IGF in July 2006 and the first meeting was convened in October 2006. Since then it has been held annually to discuss internet-related issues.

Republished from CIO Africa, the event animators.

Kenya IGF 2021 Summary Report

Closing ceremony given by Mercy Ndegwa of Facebook

Blog by June Okal.

Hybrid Forum held on 23 September 2021

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is an open and inclusive multi-stakeholder forum where public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance, such as the Internet’s sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development are discussed.

Modelled on the IGF structure and principles, the Kenya IGF is a unique platform for all stakeholders to openly share perspectives and concerns on the key issues that may affect the future of Internet users in the country and across the globe in general.

The Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTAnet) in partnership with industry stakeholders, convened and organized the Kenya IGF 2021. KICTAnet worked with partners and sponsors to make the event a success. The willingness of Facebook, the Ford Foundation, the Communications Authority (CA), Safaricom PLC, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), Kenya Network Information Centre, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, Internet Governance Forum Support Association (IGFSA), Technology Service Providers of Kenya (TESPOK), CIO East Africa, the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa to partner and support the event is an indication of their commitment to the development and growth of the internet in Kenya.

For the second time, due to the ongoing COVID – 19 pandemic, the Kenya IGF was convened as a hybrid event with both physical and online participation. The forum also included a sign interpreter to ensure inclusive engagement by participants who are abled differently. The 2021 Kenya IGF was attended by +300 participants under the theme Internet United. The event was free to attend and was streamed online.

From the Opening Remarks made by Steve Chege, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer – Safaricom PLC, Alberto Cerda, Ford Foundation and Josephine Gauld, British Deputy High Commissioner to Kenya, all the speakers were excited for the 2021 KIGF discussion, and high pointed the need for multistakeholder collaboration in dealing with the challenges affecting the internet at a national, regional and global scale. Through the Keynote Address delivered by Acting Director General, Communications Authority of Kenya – the ICT industry regulator -, Ms. Mercy Wanjau identified the top three priorities that will need to be addressed in the coming year, being, the need to narrow the digital divide, enhancing of user trust in terms of freedom on the internet and provision for safeguards on disclosure of information which would need to be a collaborative effort between stakeholders.

At the first session, ‘High-Level Panel – Emerging regulation of content, data and consumer rights’ the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner cited the need for compliance and awareness. In recognition of new and emerging technologies, key industry players called for timely engagement to develop new frameworks that would enhance trust and balance interests between stakeholders, including end-users and business partners. In summary, at the heart of new age regulation is the need to facilitate innovation and multi-stakeholderism.

The subsequent session on Inclusion, Universal Access and Meaningful Connectivity emphasized the need to not only deliver connection and connectivity but meaningful connectivity where there is an impact for the end-user. The session speakers highlighted some programmes that have been implemented across the country towards this effort, challenges faced in content moderation and restriction of Freedom of Expression and Information as well as an illustration of the ongoing work on community networks.

Trust, security, and stability – the third thematic topic of discussion. There was a rallying call for enhanced public awareness in recognition of the shift of the national cybersecurity strategy in Kenya from its enactment seven (7) years ago to date owing to the evolution of technology, increased cybercrime threats as well as the pandemic–led digital transformation.

The imposition of personal values rather than national values, lack of knowledge of the national electoral technology-based system to be used, absence of transparency and accountability and a need for public education were emphasized as key concerns in the penultimate discussion on Elections, Data and Technology. In appreciation of the vital place for telecommunications infrastructure, the need for a legal framework recognizing and protecting critical infrastructure was noted. Compliance to the global standard of personal data protection by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was flagged as non-negotiable as the Constitutional right to privacy is non-derogable. Summarily, technology should reinforce the democratic process, not undermine it.

In conclusion, the last session zeroing in on Emerging Issues (e.g. 5G, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Tax, E-learning and FinTech) underscored the importance of Digital Services Tax, its impact on the economy in attempting to extend the tax bracket specifically for non-resident providers, recognized the potential impact of 5G technology and the crucial role of the regulator in spectrum allocation. The use of artificial intelligence particularly in financial technology service delivery was lauded in compliance with the law, with counter-arguments on premature regulation in the field of fintech vis a vis the place for self-regulation. User centricity in the development of e-learning solutions should be based on the key pain points flagged by key stakeholders and the need for a new smart city development rather than the retrofitting of existing cities was cited to leverage technology in an attempt to alleviate existing challenges.

The event also featured an award ceremony for the 40 participants of the Kenya School of Internet Governance (KESIG) and the outcome report of the 2021 Youth IGF conveyed. In delivering the Vote of Thanks, Barrack Otieno chair of the Multi Advisory Group (MAG) thanked all the sponsors, partners, speakers, MAG members, KICTANet team and attendees for their engagement. In her Closing Remarks, Mercy Ndegwa, Public Policy Director, East & Horn of Africa, Facebook opined that ‘Internet United’ was an amazingly apt theme throughout the day, noted that the conversation and content were extremely rich and applauded KICTAnet for hosting such a great event.

Conclusively, the attendees – representing various sectors including government, the private sector, civil society, the technical and academic community, and the general public – shared key session highlights and comments on the active chatbox. There was unquestionable consensus on the great content, good insights, impactful learning and interesting conversations in recognition of how the internet has come to play such an important role in our lives and hence the need for its governance. One attendee lauded the virtual setup, quipping that it, ‘looks like a Kenyan apple event’.

The reports of the Kenya IGF 2021 will be follow shortly on the KICTANet documents portal.

Kenya IGF 2021 call for topics

The Kenya Internet Governance Forum (KIGF) is an annual meeting that brings together various stakeholder groups to dialogue on ICT and Internet policy. While the discussions give soft policy outcomes, KIGF is a knowledge-sharing platform that informs and inspires policy actors in both the public and private sectors.

The national forum also feeds into the regional and global IGFs through a chain of reporting and representation to the regional and global IGFs to ensure a bottom-up Internet policy development processes and a strong link between global internet policies and the national one.

This year, we will have a hybrid (Virtual and Physical) meeting on the 21st to 23rd September 2021.

On behalf of the local Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG), we’d be interested to hear your views on the issues and topics that you think ought to be discussed during this year’s Kenya IGF.

To enable us track the issues, kindly share them in this Google Form which is in the format below:

a) Proposed topic(s):

b) Why the topic is important or relevant:

c) Proposed speakers (if any):

Kindly share your feedback by 4th June 2021.

Google Form for call for topics

My reflection on Kenya School of Internet Governance and working in Post Covid19 era

By Peter Mmbando, KeSIG and KeIGF Fellow 2020, from Tanzania.

As the year 2020 draws to close and we prepare to welcome the year 2021, I share my reflections on the KeSIG and KeIGF 2020 as the first virtual events hosted in Kenya that engaged Multistakeholders from East African Countries.

The events were virtual, with presentations from ICT professionals, and digital policy experts who provided rich content that changed my way of thinking for future events and work in cyberspace. I learned that due to the pandemic, the world had totally changed from analog to digital. The pandemic prompted everyone to work remotely or from home. Some organizations changed to hybrid offices where non-essential workers begin working from home or remotely in finance, ICT, agriculture, media to name a few.

Much of the contents at KeSIG reminded us to focus and not panic, to be creative, perseverance, to upgrade skills, and to accumulate constructive knowledge for the betterment of the world. The concepts covered internet design principles, introduction into internet governance, international roles of internet governance, private sector roles in internet governance, and emerging issues.
I have learned that most youths are taking digital life for granted, not paying enough time to details, to explore, read, practice digital skills, as well as upgrade their skills in cybersecurity, instead, they spend much time on social media chatting or watching unproductive information.

In addition, the KeSIG 2020 and KeIGF 2020 had touched on issues of disinformation and misinformation that had affected communities by creating fear and panic during the pandemic. Youths, especially women must be equipped with digital skills ( techno know-how) in order to understand how to respond to cyber-bullying, cyber-attacks, and cyberspace at large as well as to learn how to write positive narratives about Africa with reliable sources of information.

Furthermore, KeIGF speakers elaborated on how youth can practically learn negotiation skills not only at the national level, continental level but also at the global level in policy formulation and discussions. Negotiation skills are vital for African youths to address critical issues facing the African continent, for instance, the issues of internet connectivity, data privacy, data protection, and cybersecurity policies. Other issues are internet shutdown and throttling and mass surveillance.

Lastly, youth must understand that while most jobs and opportunities are remote and virtual, it is time to wake up and learn, upgrade skills, and fast to adapt changes in life. As we are living in a digitalized world, we depend much on the digital economy to survive or live. We should well manage time and other resources to build constructive digital workspace and engage in community activities to bring positive change at different levels.

Lack of digital skills should not be an excuse for not working remotely or trying to create opportunities in a pandemic or non-pandemic period, we have seen that the future of work is remote to hybrid, as nearly 70% of organizations believe the productivity gains of remote working are sustainable beyond the pandemic. It is time for African youths to work hard and come up with solutions to problems that are facing in the digital space.

My First Virtual School Experience at KeSIG

By Rebeccah Wambui.

The insistent message to “do something meaningful with your time” during the unprecedented, at least in our generation, the covid-19 pandemic period had taken its toll on me. So in a typical millennial style, I did nothing meaningful in protest for a while. Until I came across application invitations for the fifth cohort of Kenya School of Internet Governance (KeSIG)/ by KICTANet

I applied instantly. This was the opportunity to further my skills on internet governance and officially join the learnt a new skill during Covid19 club.

The application and acceptance process was brief and concise. School officially kicked off with the learning management system induction training, followed by intensive, three-day sessions. This included the mandatory self-paced reading of course material provided through the KICTANet e-learning platform, and zoom interactions with industry experts from CSK, Safaricom, ICANN, and KHRC. Course work evaluation was a timed one hour attempt, with a 60% pass mark.

The graduation and certificate award ceremonies have previously been held at the end of Kenya Internet Governance forums, but this year’s got a mention at the Virtual Kenya IGF webinar with trainees receiving e- certificates.

A key lesson I learned was – Multistakeholdersim is the approach to Internet Governance and generally means that a multitude of stakeholders, as opposed to governments only, can participate in and have an impact on Internet Governance processes, discussions, and Internet policy development.

I now have the skills and knowledge to engage in wider internet governance discussions as well as the responsibility to create awareness and invite other stakeholders in, as the field is perceived as an exclusive reserve for the technical community.

Rebeccah Wambui is in the gig economy of Capacity Development and Social Impact. She also hosts The Audacity Podcast ke.
@beckywambui 

Data Privacy Day 2020: 4 Good Things in Kenya’s Data Protection Act, 2019

Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

By Francis Monyango.

Today is the 28th of January. Data Protection Day or Privacy Day. The day when we all commemorate the 1981 signing of the Council of Europe’s Convention 108 for the Protection of Individuals with regard to automatic processing of personal data, quite a mouthful.

While it is was initially a European celebration, data privacy is now a global issue and we now have a reason to celebrate Data Protection Day in Kenya. The Kenyan Data Protection Bill assented to the law on the 8th of November, 2019 and its date of commencement was on the 25th of November, 2019. This is Kenya’s first data protection law, promulgated 9 years later after the Constitution which enshrines the right to privacy in Article 31. The Data Protection Act law gives effect to article 31(c) and (d) which recognize the people’s right to informational privacy. 

In recent times, privacy concerns among Kenyans have included the arbitrary misuse of personal information, unsolicited marketing messages by entities and the need for identification at entrances of buildings. Therefore, on this auspicious Data Protection Day, we want to highlight 4 good things in the Data Protection Act.

Gives people control

The Data Protection law came with new names and rights for people. The Act defines Data subject as a natural person whose personal information is processed. The rights in the Act include the right to be informed on the use of their data and the right to access their data which is in custody of the data controller or processor. Other data subject rights include the right to object to the processing of their data, the right to correction and the deletion of false or misleading data about them. 

Data subjects are supposed to give informed consent to data processing. For them to give informed consent, they need to understand all privacy-related agreements which means these agreements have to be written in plain language. With informed consent, a data subject can know which types of data processing they can opt-in and out of.

Independent Data Commissioner

Another goodie in the Data Protection Act is the office of the Data Protection Commissioner. (It is yet to be set up but it is a huge leap to accountability). This commissioner will oversee the implementation of the Data Protection Act and its enforcement. The Data Commissioner will have to establish and maintain a register of data controllers and processors and exercise oversight on their data processing operations. Sometimes the Data Commissioner may have to conduct an assessment on a public or private body on its own initiative or at the request of a private or public body. Because of the nature of the role, we hope the Data Commissioner will be independent. The Commissioner will also be required to investigate complaints from any person on infringements of the Act and action taken.

Obligations to Data Controllers and Processors

The Data Protection Act christens entities that collect and use personal information data controllers and processors. These two entities now have new obligations. They are required to ensure that personal data is processed in accordance with the right to privacy of the data subject. The data processing has to be lawful, transparent and limited to what is necessary. Data processors and controllers are supposed to collect data for explicit, specified and legitimate purposes. The processing should not be incompatible with the agreed purposes. 

The Act prohibits data transfer outside Kenya unless there is proof of adequate data protection safeguards or consent from the data subject. Other duties are to keep the data anonymous and to exercise privacy by design in their data processing systems. The Act requires entities to be transparent and accountable in their privacy practices and in the unfortunate event of a breach. In the event of a breach, data handlers must do their best to contain the harm, give appropriate support to help those affected, and ensure timely notification of any violations to the Data Commissioner. 

Works Globally

The world is now a global village that is connected and the Act is not rigid in its requirements for cross border data transfer. A data controller or processor is allowed to transfer personal data to another country only where they have proved to the Data Commissioner the other country has appropriate security and data protection safeguards. For the processing of sensitive personal data outside Kenya, this was to be after obtaining the consent of the data subject and confirmation of appropriate safeguards in the destined nation.

This section initially required data controllers and processors to get consent from every data subject but Members of Parliament during legislation felt it would be ambiguous for an entity like the electoral body with servers outside Kenya to get consent from every voter, hence delegating the role to the Data Commissioner. This section enables interoperability between different jurisdictions while protecting the privacy of personal information without undermining the Internet’s global nature.

There are many other good things in the Act that I have not mentioned. However, I have to acknowledge that the law was drafted collaboratively, in the spirit of public participation. Stakeholders such as KICTANet, CIPIT, Article 19, KEPSA gave their views and the National Assembly ICT Committee considered all their points in the report that they tabled in parliament during the legislation.

The next big challenge is the implementation of the law. Will 2020 be a decade of privacy compliance by Kenyan entities? Will we celebrate Data Protection Day 2021 with a Kenyan Data Commissioner? Only time will tell.

Artificial Intelligence at KeSIG

Artificial Intelligence

By Margaret Nyambura.

Artificial intelligence that is popularly known as “AI’’is one of the topic that we had during the 2019 Kenya School of Internet Governance. The Artificial Intelligence technology is here to stay and no longer a thing of the past. What started as a research project on how AI works, has now become a global trend of transitioning from manual way of solving complex issues and especially those to do data entry and processing that is collected by big multinational companies such as Facebook, Huawei, and Safaricom . The components of AI are data, Algorithms, outputs, decisions, and training.

The use of AI has now become so important in sectors such as agriculture where drones are being used in monitoring the weather patterns, and gathering data. However there is a need to come up with policies and laws that help regulate AI. This data is later used in research work. Some Government organisations such as Kenya Bureau of Statistics collects data over a period of time to help in planning for infrastructure, health care services, and education among other areas. The use of AI while collecting data ensures that it is done on time, and it is factual in  determining the population growth of citizens over a period of time. AI systems feeds on data.

Here in Kenya, companies such as Safaricom are using AI technology in engaging the youth. The AI application chatbox by Safaricom called ‘’Zuri’’ help customers perform a wide range of tasks. This could replace some customer care services roles that are normally conducted by people.

Zuri can be able to handle over 17 million Safaricom customers and is able to perform tasks like manage subscription services including viewing subscriptions and unsubscribing from chargeable SMS services.  Zuri can handle other roles that includes the M-PESA reversals, buying bundles, airtime top up and checking M-PESA and airtime balances.

Safaricom was the first telecommunication company to create ZURI chatbot software that can simulate a conversation or a chat with a user in a natural language through messaging, websites, mobile apps or even through the phone.

A chatbot has often been described as one of the most advanced and promising expressions of interaction between humans and machines. That’s why they’re very important in the customer’s journey. In fact, according to Gartner, by 2020 chatbots will be handling no less than 85% of all customer service interactions, so this tells you how Safaricom’s Zuri and any other chatbot are important at this day and age.

Multinational companies such as IBM are now using AI for medical imaging known as Watson Health that is helping to create meaningful change in the health sector with over 15,000 clients and partners. Some of these health conditions would have been difficult to diagnose without the use of AI. The current statistics state that more than 295,000 patients have been affected by Watson Health.  99% of the data is recorded through artificial intelligence.

What we should know as digital technology users is that a lot is going to change in the coming years on how we shall be using AI in medicine, banking, and automobile sector and how AI shall be utilized in addressing complex issues.

AI technology has its own challenges and biases for instance, research has shown that Self-driving cars more likely to drive into black people. Another challenge could be that the older generation might find it hard to grasp the emerging technologies such as AI as the saying goes, ‘’It is difficult to change old people but can only convince them with working ideas.’’

Margaret Mwangi is a Media and communication Specialist who has gained experience in radio production, videography, photo editing and article writing the last 16 years. She has worked for both TV and Radio as a news reporter, a translator of news from English to Kiswahili, a radio producer, as a TV production assistant in various media houses which include Royal media services, Family media, Radio Mama 107.1 FM and GBS TV. She has also been a freelance writer for Association of Media Women in Kenya publications such as ‘’ The Dawn, Inuka, 86 And Counting’’ among other. She is currently a contributing writer and a photographer for Mkazi which is an online publication.
Twitter: @maggieezbon
LinkedIn: Margaret Mwangi