Photo: iStock / stellalevi

Kenya’s Controversial Biometric Project Is Shrouded in Secrecy

– University College London

Dr. Keren Weitzberg, researcher and educator based at University College London, explores the ups and downs of the Huduma Namba (or “government service number”) rollout in Kenya

Weitzberg explains the identification system’s rollout in April 2019 as well as subsequent legal challenges, concerns by rights activists and groups, and political responses since then.

Referencing official government statements, individuals affected by the identification system in their daily lives, journalists, political analysts, and rights activists, Weitzberg explores concerns with data monetization, corruption, an absence of oversight of the Huduma Namaba and the National Integrated Identity Management System which it feeds into.

The lack of oversight is especially concerning for many Kenyans and rights activists. As Weitzberg notes: “the project also speaks to larger dangers involved with the growing reach of data-gathering and biometric technology.”

Companies can view markets like Kenya as fertile testing grounds for new technology, including identification and biometric systems.

As the Kenyan entrepreneur Huston Malande said in a widely shared thread on Twitter: ‘To date, I’ve tried to find one single source of truth about Huduma Namba. Nothing…As always, the choice is yours. I’m out.’

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