In Summary
  • So last week, Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTAnet) hosted what is possibly the first town hall meeting with Members of Parliament – specifically the Parliamentary Committee on ICT.
  • More often than not, MPs meet citizens in only two settings – during election campaigns and during formal stakeholder engagement sessions at Parliament buildings.
  • Participants from media, academia, civil society, private sector, youth, etc. asked questions and shared ICT experiences and subsequently got honest feedback from MPs.
  • It was evident that this sort of meetings with parliamentary committees in charge of various sectors should be encouraged and regularised.

So last week, Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTAnet) hosted what is possibly the first town hall meeting with Members of Parliament – specifically the Parliamentary Committee on ICT.

More often than not, MPs meet citizens in only two settings – during election campaigns and during formal stakeholder engagement sessions at Parliament buildings.

The first setting is of course full of promises that both the legislators and the citizen know they would not keep. The second setting is where lobbyist present their position hoping to influence pending legislation in their favour.

In both cases, the truth tends to suffer. The town hall setting, introduced by KICTAnet borrows heavily from the US public participation approaches.

Held at a Nairobi hotel and graced by the Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on ICT William Kisang’, the MPs and participants were both at their honest and frankest levels.

Participants from media, academia, civil society, private sector, youth, etc. asked questions and shared ICT experiences and subsequently got honest feedback from MPs.

In a non-binding, equal-footing environments that town hall meetings present, you tend to get and distil the issues without the hidden agendas that often come with formal meetings.

After the Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on ICT had outlined the successes and challenges of the committee, participants had an opportunity to present questions.

CAUGHT MY ATTENTION

A few of the questions caught my attention and I share them below.

Why is Parliament still pursing the so-called bloggers’ bill, officially the KICA Amendment Bill No 61 of 2019, despite its obviously draconian provisions?

Secondly, why is Parliament pursuing a soon-to-be-published bill that aims to license ICT professionals, barring them from practicing if they are not licensed?

Thirdly, why is Parliament pursuing the KICA Amendment Bill No 20 of 2019, which seeks amongst other things to split up existing telecommunication companies into separate voice, data and mobile money enterprises?

Finally, what happened to the proposed ICT community centers, whose budgets were approved, to be deployed in all the 290 constituencies across the country?

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