A citizen has gone to court claiming ownership of the National Educational Management Information System (Nemis) and seeking an injunction to stop its use.
If successful, the action can scuttle the operations of the ministry, which uses the programme to keep a record of learners’ data and disburse funds to schools.
In the court documents, Mr George Kamau – through his company Netresource Ltd – says he is the copyright owner of a computer programme and software known as Institutions Network that he presented to the Ministry of Education in 2014 seeking a partnership.
Mr Kamau says he was involved in engagements with ministry officials but his efforts were not successful.
He adds that the ministry turned down his offer but unveiled Nemis in 2018 “which is similar to my software”.
He has sued the ministry, the Education Cabinet Secretary, the Attorney-General and Mr Benson Omondi who was an IT employee at the ministry.
“Netresource Ltd intended to license the copyrighted computer programme and/or software known as ‘Institutions Network’ to the Ministry of Education at Sh50,000 per institution,” the application reads.
Mr Kamau says most of the correspondence to the Ministry of Education was never received in the official stamp and that communication to his company from the ministry and government officials were in form of personal emails and phone numbers.
“These acts were carried out with ill motives. They were maliciously intended to fraudulently infringe on Netresource’s proprietary rights in the computer software and/or programme known as Institutional Network,” the application reads.
Mr Kamau says Mr Omondi invited him to make a presentation to ministry officials on February 8, 2015.
“On November 8, 2015…I submitted the codes to the copyrighted computer programme and/or software known as ‘Institutions Network’, together with its database to Mr Benson Omondi…at his offices…to showcase and pitch its usefulness,” the court papers read.
“Present at the meeting was the chairperson, Mrs Rebecca Gathoni. By the end of the meeting, the chairperson commented: ‘We will definitely recommend this system’.”
Mr Kamau says he was later requested to submit a concept note and made a presentation to the directorates of the ministry at Jogoo House headquarters on December 9, 2016.
“Having been satisfied by our presentation on the concept note, the officials of the Ministry of Education wrote a preliminary report apprising the same,” he says.
“On January 12, 2017, the report was forwarded to the Director Partnerships in the Ministry of Education and was consequently shared through email correspondence between themselves and us.”
He adds that a planned meeting between his company, then-Education CS Fred Matiang’i, Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang and the Director-general aborted at the eleventh hour in March 2017.
The suit papers say he was later informed by the director of ICT Lynn Nyongesa that the Institutions Network programme had been overtaken by events and that the ministry was working on its programme known as Nemis.
The ministry developed Nemis through a $88,400,000 grant from the Global Partnership for Education. The system was rolled out in January 2018.
In a reply to the application, Principal State Counsel Emmanuel Kiarie says it does not allude to any contract between Netresource and the Ministry of Education, meaning there is no breach of contract.
He adds that Netresource failed to demonstrate how Nemis infringes on copyright work relating to Institutions Network.
He says Nemis does not have a commercial benefit to the government as the ministry never charges users to access it.
“Therefore, there is no danger that the subject matter is likely to be sold or wasted by the respondents,” he says.
“Nemis…has captured details of millions of students, parents and guardians and so there is need for the court to safeguard and ensure the safety of private, personal and confidential data.”
Copy pasted heavily from the Nation Africa Website