East African community to discuss regional cyberlaw
The East African Community (EAC) Task Force on Cyberlaws will meet in Mombasa, Kenya on March 28–30 to discuss the next phase in putting into effect laws endorsed by countries of the region to smooth the conduct of business through information and communication technologies (ICTs). The meeting will be followed by a March 31- April 1 briefing for members of the Parliament of Kenya on selected legal and regulatory issues relating to e-commerce, m-commerce and business operations conducted by mobile devices, said the UNCTAD press note. The opening session of the briefing will be attended by the Kenyan minister of information and communication technology, Samuel Poghisio. The Task Force meeting, organised jointly by the EAC secretariat and UNCTAD, will review progress in implementing the Cyberlaw Framework’s Phase I, which covers electronic transactions, electronic signatures and authentication, data protection and privacy, consumer protection, and computer crime. In addition, officials will consider a draft framework for Phase II, which focuses on intellectual property rights, competition, e-taxation and information security. The intent is to finalise the draft and submit it for adoption by relevant EAC institutions. Thirty-five members of the task force will attend, including representatives from the Ministry of East African Cooperation and national officials from Ministries of Justice, Law Reform Commissions, ICT Ministries, and regulatory institutions dealing with telecommunications, revenue and competition. Other participants will come from the East African Business Council and the East African Legislative Assembly. Also, representatives from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) will attend. The framework for Phase I of the harmonization project was endorsed by the EAC Council of Ministers last November. Developing country officials are increasingly aware of the need to adapt and harmonize legislation to take into account the Internet economy and the potential of both e-commerce and m-commerce for boosting domestic and cross-border business. UNCTAD supports activities to build the capacities of developing countries in the ICT field. In East Africa and other regions, it has helped lawmakers prepare cyberlaws that protect both consumers and businesses, and encourage economic growth. EAC member countries have taken a number of steps to adapt legislation to the increased use of ICTs, in particular mobile phones, for business and financial operations. The briefing of members of the Kenyan Parliament will cover legal and regulatory issues relating to e-commerce and m-commerce, and review the EAC cyberlaw harmonization process. The briefing, organized by the Commission on Communications of Kenya and UNCTAD, aims not only to accelerate the process of enacting draft cyberlaws, but to ensure proper implementation and subsequent administration of the EAC framework.
The briefing is particularly relevant because delivery of the Government’s development strategy, Vision 2030, depends in great part on ICT platforms. The strategy also includes major targets related to regional trade. The Government has shown strong determination to advance on cyberlaw reforms, given the increasing use of mobile phones within the country forfinancial transactions. Kenya is currently deploying many new mobile money services and applications following the introduction of its M-PESA – a mobile-phone based money transfer service – in 2007. These latest activities on cyberlegislation are being funded by the Government of Finland, which since 2006 has supported EAC efforts to harmonize cyberlaws.