The Information ministry will block public schools’ access to websites with pornographic and narcotic-related content to curb online child abuse in the wake of increasing Internet access in the country.
Currently, there is no government policy on Internet use in schools offering computer courses and the onus has been left to individual institutions to formulate internal rules.
On Wednesday, the ministry and the telecommunications industry regulator, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), convened a two-day workshop that brought together public and private sector players to draft rules that will be adopted into government policy.
Information Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo said the government had decided to focus on schools since it is unconstitutional to impose a blanket block on pornographic and drug related websites.
“We are blocking all adult-related sites in schools equipped with computers and connectivity offered by the government,” said Dr Ndemo.
CCK director general Charles Njoroge said the programme should have started long time ago.
“There is no timeline yet, however this filtering should have started like yesterday,” Mr Njoroge said.
The Internet is increasingly playing a significant role in delivering services such as education, and has also become a powerful tool in social networking.
Dr Ndemo, however, says there is an urgent need to filter access of abusive content for minors who do not have the capacity to make sound judgement.
Michael Muringu, a legal expert and an Editor of Kenya Law Reports, said while there are enough laws against exposing children to sexual or obscene content such as the Children Act, Sexual Offences and the Penal Code, crimes committed through the Internet have remained loosely defined.
“One of the biggest challenges and which should be addressed is Internet policing,” said Mr Murungi, adding: “As a country we do not lack the legislations on the child abuse but when it comes to the Internet , monitoring, pursuing and arresting such predators actually becomes a big issue.”
Policing the Internet has been made difficult by the matter of jurisdiction as a crime can be committed by someone outside the jurisdiction of Kenyan courts. While the government is looking for better ways to enhance enforcement mechanisms and technical solutions to block such sites from the minors, experts are of the view that the responsibility should first begin with parents and guardians.
“Just because there are traffic police officers on the road, a parent cannot assume that his or her children will arrive to school safely without taking basic care and the same applies to the Internet, parents should take advantage of the advanced technology to block such sites” said Mr Murungi.
The two-day forum is seen as a step towards appending the current legislation, The Kenya Information Communication Amendment Act 2009, section 84D that deals with obscene Internet content but which some legal professionals have previously flouted, saying it does not measure up to international practices.
The Act holds Internet Service Providers (ISP) liable for websites visited by customers, which is out of keeping with the international norm which favours a “take down” approach where ISPs’ are notified of the illegal content and given some time to block the offending information from being accessed through its systems.
This exposes them to a fine Sh200, 000 or a jail term of two years upon losing a case filed against them.
Latest statistics from CCK indicate that the country has 8.6 million internet users, however the data does not give a breakdown in terms of the age groups accessing the internet.