Communication Authority (CA) driving the ICT sector in Kenya
Set up to build a connected society through enabling directives, partnership and innovation, Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) is leading the nation through its digital transformation. The Authority’s work over the last twenty years has revolved around service to its clients through education, regulation and oversight with integrity and excellence in invention making up the institutions core values. As CA marks its twentieth anniversary, the Corporate Watch Magazine sets out on a fact-finding mission to establish the authority’s role in accelerating the development of the information and communication sector.
CW: What is the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) established to do?
CA: The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) is the regulatory agency for the ICT industry in Kenya. Its regulatory mandate spans through the telecommunications, broadcasting, electronic commerce, cyber-security, and postal/courier services. CA is also responsible for managing the country’s numbering and frequency spectrum resources as well as safeguarding the interests of users of ICT services.
In discharging this mandate, the Authority is guided by the Kenya Information and Communications Act 1998 (as amended in 2013). This year we are marking 20 years since our establishment.
The Authority’s mandate entails issuing licenses for the various information and communications services as well ensuring that licensees adhere to their respective licence conditions. This is achieved through monitoring and enforcement activities undertaken from time to time.
Additionally, the Authority fosters competition within the ICT industry by creating an enabling environment that enhances innovation, providing consumers a wide variety of services and choices.
The Authority also ensures that ICT equipment used within Kenya meets basic standards in respect to safety and other pre-defined parameters. In this regard, the Authority undertakes type approval of ICT equipment and issues licences to vendors of ICT equipment. Consumers are advised to buy equipment only from licensed providers.
Most importantly, the Authority is vested with the responsibility of protecting the interests of users of ICT services. Towards this end, the Authority monitors the quality of services offered by licensees with a view to ensuring that ICT consumers get value for their money. The Authority also educates ICT consumers through various platforms on their rights and obligations to empower users with information to make informed purchase and use decisions in the market.
On instances where aggrieved consumers do not get redress from licensed service providers, they are encouraged to escalate their complaints to the Authority for regulatory interventions through firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone number 070042000.
To ensure our services are accessible throughout the country, the Authority has established regional offices in Kisumu, Eldoret, Nyeri and Mombasa. This ensures that CA can easily interact with our stakeholders in the various regions.
CW: What milestones has CA attained so far since its establishment?
CA: Since its establishment in 1999, the Authority has been at the frontline of opening up the ICT industry to competition. As a result, Kenyans now enjoy choice and quality postal and ICT services at competitive prices. We have achieved this, through licensing of players and creating an enabling environment that fosters innovations and competition within the sector. Currently, the vibrant ICT landscape in Kenya boasts of three mobile network operators (MNOs) and two mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).
Over the two decades, Authority oversaw the digital migration in Kenya that opened up new opportunities in television broadcasting, establishment of a dynamic licensing regime (Unified Licensing Framework) which has enabled more entrants into the market and the establishment of the Kenya National Computer Incident Response Team (KE-CIRT) that oversees the country’s cyber security issues.
Others include market studies that informed decision-making in the sector and subsequent determinations that had the ripple effect of lowering prices in telecommunications and Broadcast Signal Distribution (BSD) services in broadcasting. We have also undertaken extensive awareness campaigns through County ICT consumer forums as a measure of empowering consumers and establishment of four regional offices in Kisumu, Nyeri, Mombasa and Eldoret to enhance closer engagement with our stakeholders.
It is also during this period that we operationalize the Universal Service Fund (USF) that we are leveraging on to enhance access to communications services across the country.
As at December 2018, there were 4951 million mobile subscribers, representing a 106.2 per cent mobile penetration. In the broadcasting sector, there are 173 FM radio stations and 75 television stations on the digital broadcasting platform. There are 45.7 million Internet subscribers, 623 postal offices countrywide, 1,027 private courier outlets and 77,671 dot ke domain names.
The ICT industry therefore continues to expand with the entry of new service providers offering a wide array of services and is now one of the key contributors to Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) besides creating job opportunities for our youth.
In terms of our regulatory capability, we have continually invested in tools that help us monitor the performance of the industry in a more efficient manner. The Authority has acquired new Quality of Service Monitoring system (QSMS) that has boosted our capability to measure quality of voice, data and SMS services provided to consumers by our licensees.
We also have in place a Spectrum Monitoring and Management System (SMMS) that enables us to monitor, plan and allocate spectrum in a an efficient manner. Additionally, two years ago, Kenya became the first country in Africa to implement an automated mail quality management system, aimed at improving efficiency in the mail delivery ecosystem making.
CW: The Government is currently focused on delivering the Big 4 Agenda for the next five years. How is CA contributing towards the achievement of the Big 4 Agenda?
CA: We see Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) as a key enabler in the achievement of the Big 4 Agenda, which focuses on manufacturing, food security, Universal health care and affordable housing.
ICTs especially emerging technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) are now being used to improve people’s lives through enabling provision of a wide range of other services.
For instance, ICT innovations supported by the use of broadband and internet are key in the hastening of access to universal healthcare, where such technologies are being deployed to facilitate e-health services, identification and records management of beneficiaries for institutions such as the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF). This is enhancing access to quality health services across the country.
We also see ICTs playing a critical role of narrowing the information divide between health professionals and the communities they serve. ICT is also supporting research in the medical field by providing better ways of accessing, communicating, and storing information. This is being achieved through the development of databases and various applications for the medical sphere.
In manufacturing, there are ongoing efforts by the Government to promote local assembly of phones, TV sets and laptops, which is envisaged to create about 10,000 jobs annually, fuelled by, among others, business process outsourcing (BPO) services.
The recent move by the Ministry of Lands to adopt block chain in the digitization of lands records was a big leap forward towards driving efficiency and speed in processing of land documents. This will see increased transparency and visibility of ownership through a single source of truth.
We also see integration of ICTs in agriculture as critical in boosting food security in Kenya.
As you will appreciate, ICTs have changed how we access, compute and communicate information to people. ICTs can be leveraged on to provide farmers with useful data to boost food security. These include information on good farming practices, inputs, weather patterns and market access.
ICTs are now increasingly supporting new methods of agriculture like computerized farm machinery that is used to apply fertilizers and pesticides. Farm animals can now be fed and monitored by electronic sensors and identification systems.
The advent of big data is also presenting additional opportunities for ICT to enhance agricultural productivity. On the farm, this data may include crop yield history, product usage, order status, payment history, and field data such as soil types, moisture levels, available nutrients, pest pressures, and the weather. Presently, farmers or extension officers can send data via the Internet to a database server at a central location where such information can be managed, analyzed and help farmers make better farming and business decisions.
To ensure ICTs support the attainment of the Big 4 Agenda, the Authority is facilitating the roll out of ICT infrastructure to support access to voice and data communication across the country. This initiative is supported through regulatory interventions and use of the Universal Service Fund.
CW: Access to communications services is a fundamental human right. As the ICT industry regulator, what initiatives has the Authority implemented to enhance access to communications services across the country?
CA: One of the key mandates of the Authority is facilitating access to ICT services in all parts the country. In this regard, the Authority is charged with the responsibility of managing and administering the Universal Service Fund to which all licensees are required to contribute a given percentage of their revenue. The fund is utilized for deployment of ICT infrastructure and services in under-served and un-served areas.
To identify the existing ICT access gaps that needed to be closed, the Authority in 2016 undertook an ICT Access Gaps Study. The study gave us indicators of the existing disparities in access to communications services that needed remedies.
The study also identified areas where urgent interventions were required and proposed a five-year implementation plan. The Authority prioritized two key areas in its 1st phase of closing the communication gaps. These included rolling out 2G voice services in 202 sub locations that had no connectivity at all, covering an un-served population of approximately 700,000 people. The other focus area was availing broadband to public secondary schools.
Through the USF, we have already facilitated the rolled out of 2G voice services in 78 sub locations that until recently had zero coverage. Additionally, we have connected 896 secondary schools with high speed Internet to promote the integration of ICTs in education. The beneficiary schools spread across the 47 counties have been provided with 5Mbps broadband connectivity under the Education Broadband Connectivity project.
Ultimately, the Authority is planning to scale up the Education Broadband Connectivity to cover 8,000 public secondary schools in the country. We are looking forward to bringing on board partnerships to seal all the existing voice and other ICT access gaps identified in the study as the task is not only onerous but also expensive.
CW: The Internet presents innumerable opportunities, which if properly harnessed can contribute to Kenya’s socio-economic development. What is the role of the Authority in promoting the adoption of e-commerce in Kenya?
CA: One of the areas that were added to the Authority’s mandate during the review of the ICT sector law in 2013 was the promotion of the development of e-commerce in Kenya. We see the Internet as a tool for socio-economic transformation. Many Kenyans are increasingly buying and selling goods over the Internet. However, this is not being fully harnessed due to lack of a proper addressing infrastructure that can allow for delivery of goods to the buyers’ convenience.
To address this challenge, the Authority has joined hands with the relevant Ministries and state agencies to coordinate development and implementation of a National Addressing System (NAS). This framework provides for, among others, the naming/numbering of streets properties to facilitate easy identification, location and access to such places. Once completed, the NAS will dramatically boost the uptake of e-commerce in the country and by extension transforming the fortunes of the postal and courier service industry.
A lot of ground had already been covered in this multi-stakeholder initiative. We are now in the process of tying up loose ends to ensure this initiative bears fruits.
The other issue of concern is the confidence of Kenyans in e-commerce, given the many risks associated with it. The situation has been compounded by a lack of clear guidelines pertaining to online transactions. To address these concerns, the Government has stepped up efforts to ensure a conducive regulatory environment that can boost consumer trust and confidence on the Internet as a platform for doing business.
In this regard, the Government has enhanced our cyber security laws to create an atmosphere of trust especially on the safety of customer data online and redress mechanisms in the event of breach.
The recently enacted a Computer and Cyber Crimes law and the ongoing development of the Data Protection and Privacy law will provide the much-needed regulatory foundation upon which Kenya’s e-commerce will thrive.
CW: With the rapid adoption of emerging technologies, new challenges have emerged. Cyber crime has now become one of the greatest threats that Governments world over are grappling with. What efforts are in place to secure Kenya’s cyber space?
CA: Kenya, like any other countries, is faced with emerging cyber threats occasioned by the rapid changes in technology. Everyday, cyber criminals are devising schemes to access information held by individuals and institutions. In fact, every single minute, cyber criminals are intruding into IT systems. In the recent times, we have heard reports of banks losing money to cyber criminals, confidential information finding its way into the public domain and reputations damaged as a result of activities of cyber criminals.
The Authority is charged with the responsibility of securing Kenya’s cyber space. We are currently hosting the Kenya Computer Incident Response Team Coordination Centre (National KE-CIRT/CC), which is the national cyber-crime management trusted point of contact. The KE-CIRT/CC receives and analyses cyber threats and advises institutions on how to strengthen their systems against any possible attacks. The team undertakes 24-hour surveillance of Kenya’s cyber space and has been instrumental in coordinating collective efforts to safeguard the security of IT systems in the country.
Members of the public are therefore advised to contact the National KE-CIRT/CC via the email address email@example.com or through the dedicated 24/7 hotlines +254-703-042700/+254-730-172700, to report such incidences or seek advice on cyber security.
For further information, visit the National KE-CIRT/CC website at http://www.ke-cirt.go.ke or through the Authority’s website at http://www.ca.go.ke.
In addition, the Authority has put in place an elaborate Child Online Protection (COP) campaign that seeks to empower children on their rights and responsibilities when using communication services. The programme seeks to also engage parents, teachers and guardians on their role in enabling a safer Internet experience for children.
The Programme launched in 2015, seeks to among other things trigger the industry in the development of consumer protection and safety initiatives to safeguard children online. The Authority also continuously undertakes outreach activities to create awareness on this matter and targets children, parents, guardians, teachers and other stakeholders on their role in child online protection.
The Authority has been able to bring together the ICT industry, consumer interest groups, Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), public institutions and law enforcement bodies from all over Kenya to develop joint projects for the protection and empowerment of children online.
CW: The Authority is Kenya’s designated representative on ICT matters globally. In what ways is Kenya contributing to the global ICT agenda?
CA: Over the years, Kenya has emerged as a reputed ICT powerhouse in the region and globally. In fact, many local ICT innovations have won international acclaim, putting Kenya ahead of her peers in ICT development. Our population is among the most active on Internet in Africa. This means that Kenya now commands a lot of respect globally.
This development has emboldened Kenya’s confidence and given her a voice at global decision-making platforms. As a result Kenya has been entrusted with leadership of key international bodies dealing with ICTs. For instance, a Kenyan, Amb. Bishar Hussein is the Director General of the Universal Postal Union (UPU), the United Nations specialized agency for the postal sector. He is serving his second four-year term.
In 2018, another Kenyan, Mr. John Omo, was elected the Secretary General of the African Telecommunications Union (ATU). Kenya has been hosting the ATU on temporary basis since 1999 and is also home to the African Advanced Level Telecommunications Institute (AFRALTI), a regional intergovernmental capacity building institution. Other ICT multinational corporations have also established their regional offices in Kenya, a further stamp of confidence in the country’s vibrant ICT sector.
Kenya has been a member of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Council since 1982, which serves to underline the respect that Kenya enjoys globally in the field of ICT.
These leadership positions give Kenya a lot of leverage when canvassing her interests at the international arena on matters ICT.