Kenyans may start using digital IDs after the government on Tuesday approved four essential digital components to facilitate the development and implementation of Digital Identity in the country.
In a statement sent to newsrooms by Immigration PS Julius Bitok, the technical committee of Principal Secretaries approved Maisha Card, Maisha Namba, Digital Signature and Master National Population Register.
According to the PS, the Maisha Card is set to replace the current National ID card while Maisha Namba will be issued to all new born babies as their birth certificate number.
On the other hand, a digital signature will make it possible to identify Kenyans via their mobile phone numbers and other smart gadgets.
Meanwhile, the master National Population Register will integrate existing databases for all persons born in Kenya, including those on transit and refugees in the country’s database.
Internal Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo addresses the media at Serena Hotel, Nairobi on September 12, 2023.
Ministry of Interior
“We want a master population register that is integrated to the extent that whenever someone applies for a passport, the system should be able to tell if that person has a birth certificate and an ID so that we have accuracy in our identity management systems,” PS Bitok said.
PS Bitok noted that the four digital identification products will be rolled out on September 29, 2023, in line with President William Ruto’s 90-day directive for the implementation of the National Digital ID.
While launching the eCitizen platform on June 30, 2023, the President directed the relevant government ministries to come up with a digital ID to comply with international standards on registration documents.
Among the key features of Maisha card is an MRZ (Machine Readable Zone) in line with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) that will make it possible to decipher personal encrypted details.
The PS explained that the digital ID is intended to support the consumption of online services offered by the government and the private sector by making it easier to identify clients while minimizing identity fraud and forgery claims.
Additionally, he explained that unlike Huduma Namba which encountered legal headwinds, the Maisha Card will not require fresh registration or collection of personal biometrics.
He said the government had picked useful lessons from the challenges with the unsuccessful implementation of Huduma Namba, key among them the need for extensive public and other stakeholder involvement.
The Maisha Namba will be the reference identifier for an individual’s lifetime.
This includes birth certificate number and subsequent registration in schools and registration for government services such as Kenya Revenue Authority and National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF). The number will transit to a death certificate number upon the holder’s death.
“From what happened to Huduma Namba, we appreciate that how we communicate to digital IDs to the public is critical. We must explain why we are doing what we are doing and how the public will gain from it,” Omollo said.
In line with this, the PS revealed that the government will spend Ksh1 billion for the launch; including conducting public education and registration exercises that will be held alongside public barazas and other stakeholder forums across the country.
He added that the Digital ID card will be rolled out in three phases with first-time ID applicants, those seeking duplicates and replacements for lost IDs among the pioneer beneficiaries.
Former President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and his successor William Ruto sign up for Huduma Namba in 2019.