Monthly Archives September 2019

Kenya to License Bloggers and Facebook/WhatsApp Group Creators

Posted on 3 min read

Government acts are contagious. Uganda and Tanzania came up with laws to regulate blogging and use of social media, and Kenya is on the verge of copying and pasting. The Kenya information and Communications (Amendment) Bill 2019 seeks to bring in regulations that will lead to the tightest control of social media use in Kenya, affecting users, content creators and group admins. Here is the story.

The Bill

The proposed Bill seeks to define a blogger as a person who is registered by the communication authority as a blogger, and blogging as collecting, writing, editing and presenting of news or news articles in social media platforms or in the internet. It also defines Social Media Platforms to include online publishing and discussion, media sharing, blogging, social networking, document and data sharing repositories, social media applications, social bookmarking and widgets.

The Bill seeks to amend the Kenya Information and Communication Act to allow for the following

  • The communications authority of Kenya will license anyone who wants to establish a social media platform, upon payment of a fee.
  • The precondition for licensing could include
    • Establishment of a physical office in the country
    • The social media users should be registered using legal documents
    • The licensee shall keep the data of all the users
    • Ensure that the users are 18 years and above.
  • The Communications Authority can access and collect any data from social media platforms
  • For Group administrators
    • Inform the Communications Authority of their intentions to form groups in platforms such as WhatsApp/Facebook.
    • Vet content that is posted to the group
    • Approve members who want to join the group
    • Regulate content that is posted
  • The communication authority shall license bloggers, and keep a register of bloggers.
    • Blogging without a license is punishable by imprisonment to a term not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding 500k.


If we are to predict the implications of the Bill, perhaps we should look at Tanzania and see what happened when the government adopted such measures. What will happen when one is required to register with CA before forming a WhatsApp group for a funeral? What will CA achieve by keeping a list of blogs, whose content is too much to monitor? How many enforcement officers should the CA have in order to keep up with every Facebook group?

The most likely scenario is that these laws will never be enforced, but will be used as a tool for witch-hunt and settling government scores. At the end, it will be about weakening any voice that the government does not want to hear, and thus control the media.


If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. This explains the propensity of the government to result to legislation to solve virtually any problem. Take the example of the failed attempt to curb Female Genital Mutilation in some communities, where despite heavy regulation, the practice is till rampant in many places. This is because you cannot change culture through an act of parliament.

In the same way, the government needs to come up with real solutions to the problems that ail Kenya, including the problem of fake news, misinformation, privacy and abuse of digital platforms. These are complex problems that can be solved if we use reasonable means. We need to educate people on how to navigate the digital world responsibly, and find a balance between regulation and stifling innovation. Maybe we need to take our social sciences more seriously, as opposed to focusing on engineering and STEM.


Why Kenyans Rank Poorly in Online Privacy

The 2019 Global Survey on Internet Security and Trust ranked Kenyans as the people with the least concern for privacy online, ranking at position 25 out of the 25 countries that participated in the survey. The report said that only 40% of Kenyans are concerned about their privacy online, way below the global average of 80%, a situation that could make them sitting ducks for cyber criminals. While the news is a little bit surprising coming from the Silicon Savannah, it is not startling. A careful look at the country can hint that this is actually the case.

A look at the landscape

Online privacy remains a mystery to many Kenyans. People treat the technology behind browsers and apps as a black box that gets a thing done and has no interest in them, just the same way a bedroom sees everything but has no interest in the data that is processed within its four walls. This is why people are quick to give out sensitive personal information in exchange for access to online service. The worst culprits are usually children and elderly people, who go ahead to even volunteer information about other people who are close to them.

Many of the offline behaviours are also replicated online, and this might explain why Kenyans are not keen on their privacy online. As a Kenyan, I have encountered several places where CCTV cameras are strategically placed in a way that they will capture your PIN when making card or M-PESA payments. This usually happens in shopping malls, and people never seem to give it care. In several cases I have been able to see the M-PESA PIN for mobile money agents as I deposit or withdraw cash from them. In many buildings and institutions, one is required to deposit their ID card at the gate or the door, and then give their phone number in order to be allowed entry.

This carefree attitude towards privacy is propagated by a number of factors, but lack of education/ awareness and government complacency are the two main culprits.

Lack of education

Whenever the product is free, the customer is usually the product. Many online platforms are free products for users. From social media platforms, apps and software, operating systems and many productivity tools, a current business model is to offer the services for free and then make use of the users’ data. Most people do not know this and they let their data be used freely in the transaction and thus take no precaution to protect themselves. They end up happily bringing a knife to a gunfight.

There seems to be a gap in educating people on safe practices online, especially in the Kenyan context. People are left to navigate technology blindly and to learn through mistakes they make. Kenya has a very dynamic society that is open to trying new things, a situation that makes them easy prey on the internet. As people jump from one app and platform to another, they end leaving behind loads of data and personal information that can be used by anybody. It does not help the matter any further knowing that the ‘Terms and Conditions’ pages are meant to be as hard to read as possible.

Government Complacency

The government seems not to give much thought to privacy. There are no laws that govern data protection and privacy in Kenya. Worse still, the government seems not prioritize the matter. Take the example of the Huduma Numba (National Integrated Identity Management System) which was launched early this year. Many protested that there were no laws that would guarantee security of their data, and even the court barred the government from collecting some data some data such as GPS locations. But the government went ahead to collect the same data during the census, taking advantage of the exercise to register the GPS coordinate of each citizen even without consent.

There are two data protection bills that have been proposed, and none seems to be making any progress. Instead, the government has now introduced a Huduma Namba bill that seeks to make registration for Huduma namba mandatory for all citizens and aliens, with little consideration of the security of the data and privacy of the citizens.

But even if the privacy laws are implemented, will the government honour the laws?


Privacy matters, whether it is online or offline. It is the reason why we shut the door when we use toilets, while it is no secret what we are doing inside there. How can we build a more careful society in Kenya that understands the risks and opportunities availed online?

Some countries are actively educating their citizenry on how to navigate the digital media safely, allowing for safe and informed actions online. An example is MediaSmarts, a Canadian firm that provides digital and media literacy resources to Canadians. This is a concept that would be very useful in Kenya.

They say that people don’t know how to think; they need leaders to think for them! Some of that is very true, in the sense that they need experts to come up with regulations and policies that will be applied to all. That is where the government comes in. The government of Kenya should invest in establishing legal structures that will protect Kenyans online, though laws, policies, regulations and public education.

Until that is done, Kenya will keep learning the hard way.


Kenyan Musicians Face the Music

Posted on 3 min read

Kenyan artistes seems to be making everything but money.

Last month, the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) disbursed loyalties to Kenyan musicians. This is the money that had been collected from licensing public music performance in the in the second quarter of 2019. It includes fees from places such as hotels, hospitals, entertainment places, public service vehicles, malls and even lifts. It should have been great news for musicians in Kenya, save for the fact that each one of them received USD 25.3! In fact, it was USD 25 plus the 0.3$ to be spent on M-PESA withdrawal charges.

The uproar was huge. Some called for the disbanding of the body, while others expressed a willingness to allow people use their music for free. How can well-known names in the industry make a paltry USD 25?

MCSK explained that they simply divided the money they collected among all their members, irrespective of airplay or popularity of the respective musician. While it is possible the low ranking musicians celebrated the move, the ‘lords’ of the industry cried foul, accusing MCSK of not being transparent in its operations. Most of these musicians are on platforms such as Spotify and YouTube, and their videos have attracted millions of views. How comes they could only earn 25$ from offline music licensing?

 The Plight of Monetizing

Being a musician in Kenya is hard. Being a successful one is harder. Thousands of people pick up the mic each year but quit when they realize that no one is interested in their music. If you are successful, you will then realize that people want everything to do with your music, except paying for it. Kenyans will gladly listen to your music on YouTube, download your songs from any illegal site that has it, and sometimes buy pirated copies of your music. This is the same case with movies where there is a thriving industry for pirated movies.

Where then can a musician make money online? Spotify is neither popular nor readily available. Only YouTube remains as the ‘streaming’ platform where an artiste can make money. YouTube is a popular media in Kenya, with telcos giving packages that include free YouTube access (Safaricom and Airtel). This has led to rapid growth in the number of views for Kenyan music videos since the beginning of the year. An informal survey shows that some of the videos that had garnered about 1 million views in two years at the end of 2018 have now moved to almost three million views in the last 8 months. This is a welcome move. But there is a problem.

While the number of views on YouTube is increasing, the earnings remain low for Kenyan content. As noted by one user, the amount of money advertisers are willing to pay in Kenya is very low. This translates to lower earnings for the musicians.

In one video, one vlogger reveals that she earned USD 700 for one video which had 1 million views on YouTube, which was almost two years old by then.

Where does this leave the musicians? It is no wonder that many consider a singing career a financial suicide. As one man said:

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

John Adams