Huduma Namba digital ID cards to go into production as 2022 election issues raised

Huduma Namba digital ID cards to go into production as 2022 election issues raised

After a mass registration exercise to capture the nation’s biometrics for the ambitious Huduma Namba unique identifier number, the program is moving to the next stage: card production. The scheme to create a ‘single source of truth’ on every Kenyan citizen and resident and has proved controversial at every step, including legal action at the High Court. Politicians are already disputing the validity of election results for a poll that is still two years away, fearing the digital ID system will be used to rig the vote.

“Over 90 per cent of the datasets collected from the 37 million Kenyans during the mass registration exercise have been cleaned up and matched, with mass production of Huduma cards set to begin by the end of this year,” said the principal administrative secretary for the Interior Ministry, Moffat Kangi, as quoted by The Standard.

This is the third generation of Huduma Namba (‘service number’) cards and the card production center is 90 percent complete, according to Capital FM. The first card issued to someone will be free and replacements will have an associated cost. Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho is quoted as saying “Of all adults who took part in the initial mass registration, all the data has been merged and cleaned up, we have created a data centre which is complete and ready.” Yet the article also states that the fingerprint biometrics of 14 million of those who registered in the May 2019 exercise will be passed on to experts for reconciliation as the data merger could not be automatically validated.

A new biometric registration exercise will be held in December for those who missed last year’s, reports The Standard. It appears that it may generally be possible to sign up at any point thereafter.

Another article by The Standard reports the bill so far for the project is Sh7.7 billion ($71 million) and the second and final phases could bring that to Sh9 billion ($83 million).

The government claims the production of the cards was slowed down by legal proceedings filed at the High Court, according to KBC. The main areas of debate have been whether the whole scheme is constitutional and inadequate data protection.

“After comprehensive public participation, a pre-publication scrutiny of the two statutory instruments has been held with the Parliamentary Committee on Delegated Legislation preparatory to their enactment into laws,” Kangi of the Interior Ministry is quoted as saying by KBC. The article states that according to Kangi, the Ministries of Interior, Coordination of National Government and Information, Communication and Technology have drafted The Data Protection (Civil Registration) Regulations, 2020 and The Registration of Persons (National Integrated Identity Management System) Regulations, 2020 as directed by the Court.

The whole program is once again mired in controversy and these latest developments were announced when officials spoke out against what they deem misinformation and conspiracy theories surrounding the scheme. Previous court sessions heard from expert witnesses how poorly designed the software is.

Officials are now focusing on how the whole system from software to printing is 100 percent Kenyan with no foreign involvement, as The Standard reports.

This comes after more than 40 MPs, according to KBC, alleged a scheme to manipulate data held by Huduma Namba for political advantage. The Standard reports that politicians allied to Deputy President William Ruto are alleging foul play in the next general elections in 2022 and for a lack of oversight of the procurement process for the system. The group is calling for a boycott of the whole system.

Other allegations of the system is that it is being used to steal people’s data, money and fund used for coronavirus contingencies, reports Tuko.

Kenya held a deeply problematic general election in 2017. The first round was annulled. Kenya’s electoral commission recently launched a tender to investigate the refurbishment of existing biometric voter verification equipment from 2017.

This followed the decision in April 2020 to keep using Idemia kits after the High Court overturned the National Assembly’s recommendation to suspend Idemia’s operations in the country.

The Huduma Namba system, run by the National Integrated Identity Management System has been subject to criticism on many levels from data privacy to corruption, but one of the major issues is the scheme’s potential ability to exclude those deemed not to be sufficiently Kenyan and those who cannot prove it. The Digital Frontiers Institute will explore the theme of inclusion for the ID scheme at a webinar on October 5.

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