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Battle on to choose contractor for Kenya’s new digital ID scheme

Battle on to choose contractor for Kenya’s new digital ID scheme

The race to pick a contractor for Kenya’s new digital ID project is said to be hotting up with the Interior and ICT Ministries reportedly racing to get the responsibility, Africa intelligence reports.

Kenyan President William Ruto recently launched a digital government program to ease access to more than 5,000 services, and said the new digital ID scheme will go live in the next 90 days.

He directed the Interior and ICT Ministers to take measures within their respective spheres of competence in order to ensure that the plan comes to fruition.

The reported battle over who choses the contractor is understood to be part of the efforts to meet the President’s directive. A call to tender for the digital ID project is yet to be made, and it is not clear when that will happen.

According to the publication, while the deputy head of the Interior Ministry Julius Bitok is said to be in favour of hiring a Pakistani service provider for the project, ICT Minister Eliud Owalo on the other hand is believed to desire a European firm. The possibility of an Indian provider is also being mooted, the outlet mentions.

India’s Electronics & Information Technology Ministry has been looking to export its expertise in digital identity to other countries, and the “India stack” was discussed in-depth in the presence of numerous Kenyan officials at ID4Africa 2023 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Bitok, a former Kenyan Ambassador to Pakistan, recently led a delegation to the country’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to tap from its digital ID project implementation experience. NADRA officials on the occasion indicated interest to help Kenya in setting up and running its digital ID project.

Africa Intelligence quotes Owalo as arguing that he should choose the project contractor because it is essentially about digitizing services, and also because his ministry has custody of Kenya’s databases.

The outlet also alleges that the reported tussle between the two ministry officials reflects the desire by each of them to assert their political influence over the other. It remains to be seen how things will play out.

UNESCO to translate AI publication into Kiswahili

In a Kenya-related story, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), says it will translate a 156-page comic strip publication which explains the impact of AI on society into Kiswahili, a language widely spoken in Kenya.

The UN agency said in a press release that the move is part of activities to mark this year’s World Kiswahili Language Day, celebrated on July 7 under the theme, ‘Unleashing Kiswahili’s Potential in the Digital Era.’

The publication, with UNESCO as corporate author, is titled ‘Inside AI- an algorithm venture,’ and is the first translation of the book to an African language.

UNESCO says while the translation is “our contribution to championing for language diversity in advancing digital rights and ethics in AI development,” it is also meant to “open up the concept of Artificial Intelligence to native speakers of the language who otherwise are often challenged in understanding the digital transformations taking place around them due to lack of understanding of complex technology terms in the English language.”

UNESCO also blamed the failure of Kenya’s Huduma Namba project on a lack of proper understanding of the ethics and human rights dimensions of the scheme, quoting digital rights advocates as saying locals didn’t have a “good understanding of the digital landscape and digital rights due to them,” and so couldn’t fully support the project.

The World Kiswahili Language Day celebration included discussions by experts on the potential role of Kiswahili language in AI and machine learning development.

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