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Kenyan IT Experts Call for Rejection of Flawed AI Bill

Kenyan IT experts advocate for the rejection of the 2023 Robotics and AI Society Bill, citing inadequate stakeholder consultation and significant shortcomings. The bill's provisions and criticisms highlight the need for comprehensive legislation to support the development of the AI sector.

Lack of Stakeholder Consultation

Kenyan information technology (IT) experts have raised concerns over the 2023 Robotics and AI Society Bill, urging Parliament to reject it due to significant shortcomings. During a session chaired by Dagoreti South MP John Kiarie, experts highlighted that stakeholders in the artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics field were not consulted during the bill's drafting process.

Key Provisions of the Bill

Titled the Kenya Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Society Bill 2023, the proposed legislation mandates the registration of robotics and AI ventures with the Robotics Society of Kenya (RSK). Entities failing to comply face penalties, including fines of up to $6,269 (KES 1 million), a two-year prison sentence, or both.

Concerns and Criticisms

Experts, including Alex Gakuru from the Center for Law in Information Technology and the Kenyan American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM), emphasized the need for additional stakeholder consultation. Gakuru warned that the bill, as it stands, could lead to a national disaster if enacted without revisions. He pointed out that while the bill focuses on regulating the robotics sector, it fails to adequately address AI concerns.

Call for Withdrawal and Revision

Gakuru called for the withdrawal of the bill to facilitate further consultation and amendments, citing potential legal challenges if it proceeds unchanged. The lack of clarity and stakeholder input undermines the bill's effectiveness and raises concerns about its enforceability.

Government's AI Readiness

Kenya's readiness to implement AI in public services ranks fifth in Africa, according to the Government AI Readiness Index by Oxford Insights. Despite this, Kenya's investment in AI lags behind countries like South Africa and Nigeria, signaling the need for comprehensive legislation that fosters innovation and development in the sector.

Next Steps

MP John Kiarie assured stakeholders that their concerns would be addressed during public participation in the bill. The call for broader consultation underscores the importance of inclusive policymaking to ensure effective regulation and support for the burgeoning AI and robotics industry in Kenya.