Author Tess Wandia explores the Kenyan government’s efforts to introduce biometric registration of almost 50 million citizens. Assessing the process against the principles of Good ID as stipulated by the Omidyar Network, Wandia argues that more could be done to gain Kenyan’s support for digital ID.
Kenya’s new digital ID system – led by the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) – involves recording citizens biodata and issuing them with a unique number. Known as the “huduma namba,” this string of numbers enables citizens to access government services.
Wandia acknowledges the potential benefits of digital identification systems, quoting the Omidyar Network’s goal of “helping people to participate more fully and fearlessly in society and the digital economy,” and she highlights ways in which the roll out could have been more effective:
Wandia explains that the initiative, which was launched in February 2019, has encountered problems with procurement, timelines, and poor official communication. Registering for the new digital ID system was initially mandatory for all eligible citizens; failure to register could lead to citizen’s losing access to government services, including their passports. While an April court ruling suspended mandatory registration, there are continued reports of forced involvement in the process, including the use of duress and brute force in some regions.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Wandia notes that
The piece concludes that the contextual system as a whole, including NIIMS but also beyond it, needs to be reviewed in order to live up to the principles of Good ID and deliver on the benefits it promises.