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ICT Practitioners Bill: A Naked Attempt To Profit Off The Labour Of Others

Blatant profiteering at its worst.

I had hoped when this bill died originally that it would stay dead — as an insanely bad idea that people would see for what it really was — a naked attempt to profit off the labour of others. Unfortunately, I find myself writing this article, and in my usual style, I will not hide my absolute contempt for this piece of proposed legislation.

So — what is the ICT Practitioners Bill. On the face of it, it’s an attempt to regulate the industry and increase the quality of the individuals working in the industry — by forcing ICT practitioners to be licensed by a state body to which they will have to pay a yearly fee. In reality — it’s absurdity writ large that is not good for the industry, not good for the country, and not good for the consumer.

I admit openly that as I write this, I only have half the act, since it seems the person who posted the draft to the parliament website probably needed some training in document handling, and the only posted every second page. But — there is enough in there that some dissection of this can be done in the meantime.

Some background — this insanity was first introduced in 2016, kicked back, it emerged against in 2018, and again it died — lets hope for the same fate.

So firstly — let’s look at what we can see from the half a document that is available.

Firstly — the definition of ICT in the bill:

Information Communication Technology (ICT) means technologies employed in collecting, storing, processing, using or sending out information and include those involving the use of computers, mobile apparatus or any telecommunication system.”

Ok, so we now know this bill covers just about every aspect of technology used in modern daily life.

Let us just get that out of the way right there. Basically — if you charge services for dealing in anything under that definition, you need a license under this, which you must pay for on an annual basis.

The bill then goes on to establish an “ICT Practitioners Institute”, governed by the state and this institute decides if you get a license or not. This institute then has the power to strike off anyone’s name as they feel like, an end people’s careers. Furthermore, the council may refuse to issue or renew a license without cause as per section 25(3) — making this WIDE open for some pretty dodgy behaviour.

The bill then goes on to say that they will publish the names, qualifications and registered addresses of every licensed ICT Practitioner — stop and think about this for a second — an individual involved in cybersecurity who is chasing dodgy people wants their address published in a government gazette? Wow — that’s going to be a real drawcard for people in the security industry — when some of those people will find their lives at risk because of it.

It then goes on to say that this nebulous body gets to:

“Prescribe the manner of training, the subject matter of training courses, standards of proficiency for the profession of ICT, including standards for internship and practicum and examinations of persons for whom provision is made under this Act be regulated;”

Great — so you have a bunch of non-industry professionals now getting to decide at random what deems a person qualified in a sector that changes as fast as the one covered under the definition I posted above.

Unfortunately — I don’t have the full bill to be able to state what the criteria prescribed are for being licensed — but — looking back at previous revisions, they were in effect asking people to have a degree in ICT. Which in and of itself is nuts.

So with that lengthy introduction — let’s talk about the problems with this.

Firstly, the ICT industry and the Internet at large have grown organically, and in fact, Eric Schmidt, one of the founders of Google, is quoted as saying, “The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experience in anarchy we have ever had.”

For many of us that work in this industry, and who have dedicated our lives to the pursuit of knowledge in the field, it is this thanks to this approach, that allowed us to go out, learn, and excel, without being boxed into someone else’s ideas, that brought us to this industry.

This bill flies in the very face of that and runs directly contrary to everything the Internet, and by extension, the ICT industry was built on.

In an examination of the industry bodies that create the standards for the very protocols we use, and the methods of communications we use, it can be seen that these august bodies value only one thing. Skill. They do not ask for licenses, and qualifications, you are judged by what you know and can deliver, and that alone.

I would remind the authors of this bill that the very protocols they are using to transmit their insane ideas to the world, were created by a bunch of people not brought together by statutes, laws and licenses, but by a common passion. The very existence of this bill stands as testimony to the growth of an industry without this bizarre and unnecessary regulatory oversight.

I am also cognizant of the fact that under this legislation if passed, should a person who does not hold “qualifications” invents something, in order to ever use it, they would have to find someone to “certify” them in their own invention or go and get a qualification in an area of the industry that is irrelevant to their specialization. That is insanity.

Thinking a step further, I also want to draw notice to the fact that when a person is performing a service for pay, they are doing so under contract. If they do not deliver, a contractual dispute arises, and the contract is declared null and void. This is contract law 101. Surely we have sufficient faith in our corporate entities to believe they can enforce the contracts they willingly enter into?

We then need to look closely at the speed at which this industry evolves. The reality is that any certification or credential runs years behind the curve. By forcing people into a certification system, you are effectively nullifying technologies for which there are no certifications. You cannot get certified today in Golang, or Segment Routing, or a multitude of other technologies. A specialist in these areas has no need of a fancy degree, and those employing him for those skills, want the skills not papers.

This effectively is death to innovation, why innovate to benefit the public, if I am forced to go and pay for a license, or forced to go and study something unrelated to my innovation just to be able to use my own ideas?

In addition to the above, let us look at the security implications for a second. The fact is that large numbers of the best security people in the world are ex hackers who have reformed, and switched sides. They did so because working in the industry on the right side of the law was more lucrative than staying on the wrong side of it.

They learnt their skills through passion and trial and error and talking to others, and the day that you force them to go and study something they don’t need to be effective at their jobs, that is the day that individual will simply defy your law or go back to the other side. You directly damage the Cyber Security industry with this nonsense, and that is in no one’s interest.

Remember, guys like these do not give a damn about your ICT bill, and having it in place is not going to stop them doing their thing. Anyone who believes otherwise is delusional.

As I conclude, one final point, we need to also look at the fact that industry is global. Technology is invented all over the world, and everyone in this industry knows that the growth in this industry happens through collaboration. Now tell me, when an inventor comes up with an idea, and flies into Kenya to share his knowledge under contract, do you really believe he is going to come if he has to first get a license?

So, for the reasons listed above, and so many more, I could write enough to form an entire book with additional reasons, it is my belief that this bill is nothing more than an attempt to profit off the work of those who have actually gotten certified by extorting them for license fees. It benefits no one other than the council who receives the money.

And so — I say this — #KillTheIctBill #KillTheIctBill #KillTheIctBill

I will post an update as soon as we get our hands on the full thing — once whoever is posting it gets certified in document handling to publish a complete document.

This article first appeared here.

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Andrew Alston

Networker, Researcher, Programmer, Husband, Father what can I say…

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Andrew Alston

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