Cooperation in the Communications sector is mandated by Articles 98 and 99 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community.
Under the provisions of the Treaty, Partner States undertake to cooperate in the establishment and operation of communications infrastructure, the development and deployment of ICT applications and services and promotion of postal services. The Communications department at the EAC Secretariat is responsible for coordinating matters related to the sector.
The following are the four major strategic objectives of projects and programmes of the sector:
- i) Harmonization of ICT policies, laws and regulations among the EAC Partner States. An integral component of this strategic objective is the coordination and enhancement associated institutions;
- ii) Promote the establishment of communications infrastructure and services e.g. communications networks, e-government and e-commerce services, and geo-spatial information systems;
- iii) Standardization of technologies and services to allow internetworking and interoperability;
- v) Communications markets - Investment strategies, competition management, quality of service and consumer welfare.
- a) East African Community Broadband ICT Infrastructure Network (EAC-BIN)
The aim of this project is to establish and operate a cross-border broadband infrastructure network within the EAC. A study on the detailed pre-investment analysis and technical design for this network and was commissioned in May 2009, and the Final Report finalized by the end of February 2010.The final report recommended a protocol on ICT networks was per-requisite for the implementation of cross-border ICT networks.
In 2012, The Council considered and adopted the draft EAC Protocol on ICT Networks, which seeks to, among others, promote: ICT services in the Common Market; the harmonization of ICT policies, laws and regulations; and establishment and management of ICT networks.
- b) EAC Legal Framework for Cyber Laws
A legal framework for cyber laws provides guidelines on the enactment and enforcement of laws that promote the deployment of e-government and e-commerce services. Two sets of such frameworks have been developed by the EAC in collaboration with UNCTAD. These are EAC Framework for cyberlaws Phase 1(Framework 1) and cyberlaws Phase II (Framework II).
Framework I was approved by the Council in 2010 and its implementation is in progress. Framework II was considered and approved for implementation by the 10th Meeting of the Sectoral Council on Transport Communications and Meteorology (TCM) in August 2013.
The following areas are addresses by each respective Framework:
Framework I: Electronic Transactions; Electronic signatures Authentications; Cybercrime; Consumer protection; and Data protection and privacy.
Framework II: Intellectual property; Competition; E-taxation; and Information Security.
- c) Analog-to-Digital Broadcast Migration (ADBM)
By January 2015, all EAC countries had switched their terrestrial broadcast systems from analog technologies to digital technologies. Digital terrestrial broadcasting offer several advantages over analog broadcasting. Besides providing more broadcast channels, digital broadcasting offer more services than can be provided by analog technologies.
ADBM required various government interventions on several areas including policy and regulatory regime, technology standardization, spectrum plans and business and consumer preparations. To that effect, the Secretariat worked with the International Telecommunications Union and the European Union to support a programme for harmonizing ADBM among EAC Partner States.
- d) ICT Policy and Harmonization Framework
Two reference instruments have been developed: a Regional Framework for Harmonization of National ICT Policies and a Study on the EAC Communications Regime. Both documents provide recommendations on harmonizing the ICT policies and regulations of Partner States. Harmonized communications policies and regulations would enhance the realization and sustenance of the Common Market.
- e) East African Communications Organisaton (EACO)
EACO is a regional ICT organization under a Public Private Partnership arrangement that brings together national ICT regulators, telecommunications, broadcasting, and postal operators/service providers, academia, and other associated stakeholders in the EAC Partner States. Its objective is to strengthen and promote cooperation among the EAC Partner States in the development of telecommunications, postal and broadcasting services in East Africa.
- f) Harmonized EAC Roaming Charges
Roaming within the Community began way back in the late 1990s, when mobile networks were first introduced in the Partner States. Thanks to
spectacular growth in mobile communications services, roaming is estimated to have been growing ever since. In February 2015, the EAC Summit directed the Council to expedite implementation of the Framework for Harmonized EAC Roaming Charges for mobile communication services by July 2015.
The Heads of States also directed the removal of surcharges for international telecommunications traffic originating and terminating within the East African Community by July 2015.