Kenya’s AI bill, reportedly proposing a 2-year jail term for unlicensed businesses, sparks controversies

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February 9, 2024
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2 min read

The news: 

  • The Kenya Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Society, based in Nairobi, has reportedly proposed a prison sentence of up to 24 months, a fine of up to KSh 1 million ($6,250), or both for unlicensed AI and robotic entities. 
  • While the bill, titled the Kenya Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Society Bill 2023, doesn’t contain the fine and prison term, TechCabal has reported that. 
  • Information Technology (IT) professionals and bodies in Kenya are kicking against the bill, citing the muzzling effect it will have on Kenya’s tech ecosystem.

The bill seeks to officially establish the Kenya Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Society, a body regulating the country's use of robotics, AI, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The society will also enforce compliance by relevant companies and advise the Kenyan government on new trends in AI and robotics.  

The regulatory body wants to promote responsible and ethical development and usage of robotics and AI technologies in Kenya while fostering collaboration among robotics and AI practitioners, researchers, and stakeholders.

The bill, introduced in Kenya's parliament in November 2023, has sparked heated debates throughout the country's AI and robotics communities. 

Several IT experts have asked the government to disregard the proposal because it has too many glaring gaps.

The American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM), led by the Director Center for Law in Information Technology, Alex Gakuru, explained to the Parliament of Kenya’s Communication, Information, and Innovation (CII) committee that the bill will be detrimental to digital advancement if enacted. 

During a session to mark 2024 International Safer Internet Day, the delegation disclosed to the committee chaired by Dagoreti South MP John Kiarie that the AI and robotics communities in Kenya were not at any time involved in the drafting of the bill and advised parliament to withdraw it pending further consultation with stakeholders.

Additionally, AI Kenya, a private initiative championing the democratisation and growth of data science and robotics in the country, has described the bill as a “severe threat to innovation and growth of the vibrant tech ecosystem.”

Emphasising the need for well-thought-out laws to regulate AI, robotics, and other emerging technologies, a lecturer at Kenya’s Dedan Kimathi University of Science and Technology, Elizabeth Mutua, has called on the government to reject the bill as it’s just another avenue for the state to prop up new offices and impose taxes without proper AI legislation. 

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