Kenya’s AI Bill Proposing a 2-Year Jail Term for Unlicensed Businesses Leads to Controversies

Kenya’s AI bill proposing a 2-year jail term for unlicensed businesses leads to controversies. The Kenya Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Society which is based in the nation’s capital, Nairobi proposes a prison sentence of 2 years, a fine of up to $6,250, or even both for unlicensed robotics and AI firms.

Kenya’s AI Bill for Unlicensed Businesses

Kenya’s AI Bill for Unlicensed Businesses

Through recent legislative efforts, a bill has been introduced to formally create the Kenya Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Society. This organization is intended to oversee the application of robotics, AI, and the Internet of Things (IoT) within the nation.

The society’s responsibilities will include ensuring that companies adhere to regulations and providing the Kenyan government with insights into emerging trends in AI and robotics.

This non-governmental organization (NGO) is set to function as a regulatory authority for the field of robotics and AI, analogous to the role of the Law Society of Kenya in regulating the practice of law in the country.

Content of the Bill

“The Society may grant the license applied for subject to such terms and conditions as the county executive committee member shall consider appropriate,” a section of the bill states.

The goal of this regulatory entity is to encourage the ethical and responsible development and utilization of robotics and AI technologies in Kenya. It aims to facilitate collaboration among professionals, researchers, and key stakeholders in the robotics and AI sectors.

Numerous IT professionals have called on the government to set aside the proposed legislation, pointing out its significant shortcomings.

Expert Analysis on What Will Happen If the Bill Passes

The American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM), represented by Alex Gakuru, the Director at the Center for Law in Information Technology, conveyed to the Kenyan Parliament’s Communication, Information, and Innovation (CII) committee that the bill could hinder digital progress if passed.

On the occasion of the 2024 International Safer Internet Day, the delegation, speaking to the committee led by Dagoreti South MP John Kiarie, revealed that the AI and robotics communities in Kenya were never consulted during the bill’s drafting. They recommended that the parliament halt the legislation’s progress until there could be further engagement with relevant stakeholders.

What Industry Pioneers Think About the Bill

AI Kenya, a private initiative focused on promoting the accessibility and development of data science and robotics in the nation, has labeled the bill as a “severe threat to the innovation and growth of the dynamic tech ecosystem.”

Highlighting the necessity for carefully crafted regulations for AI, robotics, and other advancing technologies, Elizabeth Mutua, a lecturer at Kenya’s Dedan Kimathi University of Science and Technology, urged the government to dismiss the bill. She critiqued it as merely a means for the government to establish new offices and levy taxes, all in the absence of adequate AI legislation.



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