The government of Kenya is yet to establish a holistic, multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder, mechanism for public participation for ICT policy and law-making processes.

This is according to a report by the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet), a multi-stakeholder Think Tank for people and institutions interested and involved in ICT policy and regulation.

According to the report which assessed the extent to which the public participated in three recent ICT policy and law-making processes, there have been different approaches to facilitate public participation.

In a virtual meeting, titled ‘Public Participation: An Assessment of Recent ICT Policy Making Processes in Kenya, participants learned that varied approaches were also seen in the formation of the National Information Communications and Technology (ICT) Policy, 2019, the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act, 2018, and the Data Protection Act, 2019.

“While the principle of public participation is listed under Article 10 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 as one of the national values and principles of governance, the approach taken by state bodies in the ICT sector to facilitate public participation has been varied,” said Sigi Mwanzia one of the report authors.

According to the report, quite a number of challenges remain despite progress in the past decade and they include the promotion of greater stakeholder engagement, better documentation and information sharing, hosting public county meetings, and making stakeholders’ inputs on publicly accessible platforms.

Additionally, the Public Participation Bill, 2019 which could provide the framework for effective public participation has not yet been enacted.

Specifically, the three ICT processes were marked by cross-cutting inconsistencies in the interpretation and application of public participation.

State agencies failed to: Inform the public with objective, baseline research to enable stakeholders to understand the problem or need to be addressed by a process, and solutions proposed; Consult stakeholders, and provide them with sufficient time to contribute to public calls for input, or give feedback on the consideration of stakeholder submissions; Involve stakeholders to contribute to the processes from the beginning, avail equal opportunities for different stakeholders to contribute to the processes, or avoid duplication of processes; and, Collaborate with stakeholders in decision-making to ensure consensus and balancing special interests against stakeholders’ inputs, evidence and facts.

“Marginalized groups such as the youth, women, disabled people should also be included in the formation of these processes,’ said Mwanzia

The participants also learnt that the national assembly needs to meet more stakeholders for future ICT processes to be meaningful.

“As we discuss ICT issues, we should know that even mama Mboga in Wajir might have something to say and it is up to the government to look for her,” said John Walubengo a  Lecturer, Faculty of Computing and Information Technology (CIT) at Multimedia University of Kenya and Consulting Data Protection Officer (DPO) at Ajua.

Walubengo also pointed out that language is a major barrier to effective public participation and suggested comic strips as a way of reaching the rural masses and getting their opinions on the matter at hand.

On reaching the masses, Mwanzia suggested that the government should use tools at hand such as television, radio, and social media to create awareness and let the public know that these processes are going on.

More recommendations are on the report.