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Issuance of biometric cards for Kenyans imminent as regulatory framework in place

Issuance of biometric cards for Kenyans imminent as regulatory framework in place
 

Citizens of East Africa’s biggest economy, Kenya, will soon be issued biometric identification cards which will enable them have access to certain public services. This follows the putting in place of regulations which will guide the process, Kenyan business website Business Daily reports.

Registration for the National Integrated Identity Management Systems (NIIMS) cards, known by Kenyans as Huduma cards, will be a precondition for Kenyans, refugees or foreigners on Kenyan soil to enjoy certain key government services such as the issuance of passports and the registration of SIM cards and land titles, the report adds. The new rules require cards to be issued within 30 days of registration.

About 38 million Kenyans were already registered for the cards by May when the biometric enrolment exercise came to an end. Authorities say only citizens 18 years of age and above are eligible to hold the card, meanwhile another category of the cards will be issues to minors.

Cabinet Secretary of Kenya’s Interior Ministry Fred Matiang’i issued a notice recently regarding the new regulations saying “the objects of these rules are to provide mechanisms for operation of the NIIMS (National Integrated Identity Management System) and facilitate the assigning of Huduma Namba and issuance of Huduma card to a resident individual.”

“Any government agency requiring personal particulars of an individual shall, at the first instance, rely on the NIIMS database to authenticate the foundational data of an enrolled resident individual. For the purpose of establishing proof of identity, the presentation of the Huduma card or the Huduma Namba authenticated by biometrics constitutes sufficient proof,” the senior Kenyan official was quoted by Business Daily as saying.

Although the road to the delivery of the cards has been mired in controversy, the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta hailed the introduction of the digital tool last year saying the system will help reveal the truth about personal identity in Kenya.

While the issuance of the cards has been described by a number of Kenyans as a laudable initiative, others have raised concerns about privacy issues with the biometric and biographic data collected. They fear for the security of personal data collected from citizens for the purpose of issuing the cards.

Two organisations – the Nubian Rights Forum and Kenya Human Rights Commission – have taken legal action against the government of Kenya over what they argued were lack of clear laws on data protection with regard to the NIIMS project. But assurances have been given that all data collected for civil registration purposes shall not be transferred to any other party, except by written approval of the Data Commissioner.

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