In Summary
  • Three events in the ICT sector, all centred on the communications regulator, are likely to have far-reaching ramifications going forward.
  • A presidential directive to a supposedly “independent” regulatory agency, one with its own board of directors, breaks the conventional rules of corporate governance and exposes a board that would have otherwise wanted to look and act independent.
  • An unstable or unpredictable governance framework for the ICT sector may have a chilling effect, as investors may think twice about whether Kenya will retain its pride as the preferred gateway into the East African communications market.
  • A deliberate and prolonged disregarding of court orders and institutional independence would have a direct and negative impact on the long-term performance of the sector.

Last week we had three little tsunamis sweeping the ICT sector. Three events, all centred on the communications regulator, are likely to have far-reaching ramifications going forward.

The first was that the embattled director-general of the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) obtained a court order rescinding a decision to send him home on compulsory leave pending some human resources-related investigations.

It is not the first time that the CEO of the CA has been sent home unceremoniously, but it was the first time that a court has ordered his reinstatement – and that court order was ignored.

Next was the shutdown of the four leading TV stations by the Ministry of Interior, pending ongoing investigations related to the mock swearing-in of the opposition leader.

'PARALLEL GOVERNMENT'

The allegation is that the stations are complicit in a wider agenda to install a parallel government or intended to broadcast an illegal swearing-in activity or both.

Either way, a court order was sought and issued to restore the stations back on air, pending the hearing and determination of the case. This court order has also been ignored and Kenyans have been encouraged to watch any of the other 50 local TV other channels available.

Finally, the third event, and one perhaps with much deeper ramifications, is that the President directed the communications regulator to use part of its Universal Service Fund (USF) money to support and advance police reforms.

Specifically, the CA was tasked to move Sh1 billion to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) so this agency would finalise its long-term project of building a forensic lab that would include cyber-forensics.

No one doubts the importance of training and equipping our security agencies to better deal with the ever-changing and emerging threats that are increasingly being executed online.

BREAKING CONVENTIONAL RULES

The DCI deserves all the money it needs to provide security. The problem, however, is how it is getting access to this money.

A presidential directive to a supposedly “independent” regulatory agency, one with its own board of directors, breaks the conventional rules of corporate governance and exposes a board that would have otherwise wanted to look and act independent.

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