The Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) in Partnership with FHI 360 and Internews has launched the State of the Internet in Kenya 2019 Report. The report, fourth of its kind, documents significant events in the digital space in Kenya in the past year.

The report noted that 2019 was a relatively good year for the online space as there were markedly fewer arrests and constitutional challenges to laws which may demonstrate a reduction in the momentum witnessed in previous years of the onslaught on internet rights and freedoms. 

However, there were attempts to re-introduce retrogressive Bills that had been resisted and criticized in the past. These included the Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Bill also known as the social media Bill which sought to regulate the use of social platforms and messaging applications; as well as the ICT Practitioners Bill which attempted to introduce broad registration and licensing requirements. 

According to the document, great strides that were made in the policy environment with the passing of key guiding documents such as the ICT Policy. The state of the digital or online space was positively influenced by the enactment of two critical laws, namely the Data Protection Act and the Copyright (Amendment) Act. The former was enacted to give effect to Article 31(c) and (d) of the Constitution; to establish the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner; to make provision for the regulation of the processing of personal data; to provide for the rights of data subjects and obligations of data controllers and processors, and other purposes. 

Other notable developments included the ‘Huduma Namba Case’ judgment which halted the mandatory registration of persons into the NIIMs system for want of an adequate legal framework for data protection and privacy by the date of commencement. Yet another was the ‘Cybercrimes Act Case’ which had an unfortunate judgment outside of the reporting period: the suspension of 26 provisions lapsed when the case was dismissed in early 2020. 

Additionally, the enactment of the anticipated Data Protection Act, 2019 was a great milestone in the history of Kenyan legislation. The act will regulate the collection and processing of data in Kenya. The Act introduced comprehensive obligations to persons who collect and process data. 

Speaking at the launch, BAKE chairman Mr Kennedy Kachwanya said, “The report gives us a snapshot of what is happening in the Kenya digital space and helps us to prepare for the future accordingly. Doing the report was not easy because of the challenges we have faced this year and especially due to COVID-19. Despite all that, we managed to work on it with the help of some great partners. We are very happy and grateful for the support that we received from USAID through FHI 360 and Internews.”

At the launch were a panel of digital right experts and defenders who acutely examined and explained the contents of the report to the public.  They offered their opinions on the digital strides in the reporting period and also gave recommendations on the way forward.

The panelists agreed that there were still loopholes in the current Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Law that infringe the freedom of speech if some of the clauses in there are implemented. Another law mentioned that was found problematic was the Official Secrets (Amendment) Act which allows for the Interior CS to access phone records, especially now as the country is headed to an election period. 

Also, on, internet freedoms, there are still notable subjects of online safety for women children especially female journalists and influencers who are mostly targeted online by cyberbullies. However, the year 2019 will go down for the Kenyan online community as a year that was ‘relatively good’ in comparison to global decline on internet freedoms. 

For more information, you can find the report on our website here.