Experiences with national digital ID lead to recommendations on rights protection, takeup
Adequately addressing human rights concerns remains a key issue as Kenya is looking forward to introducing a new digital identity system by September this year.
Arguments for the putting in place of proper privacy and data protection safeguards before the implementation of the system have been highlighted in an academic publication authored by Ronald Odhiambo Bwana, a student of the Mount Kenya University School of Law.
The piece, which explores the incidental effects of the digital identity project on the constitutional rights of Kenyans, says the project “presents several risks to individuals that merit careful attention.”
Apart from cybersecurity threats and fears that data may be transferred to third parties without the consent of data subjects, Bwana posits that it is also possible that the “digital identity initiative may be used for other purposes outside what citizens were informed of and agreed to.”
Kenya is working to introduce a new digital ID system different from the Huduma Namba introduced by the administration of President Uhuru Kenyatta, which triggered a lot of controversy for various reasons including human rights violation concerns.
While the Huduma Namba scheme was criticised for not having a proper human rights impact assessment before it was launched, it was also labelled as exclusionary especially for minority groups and other disadvantaged sections of the Kenyan population.
Cognisant of all of these concerns, Bwana holds that an efficient and secure digital identification system demands compliance with human rights law. Not just that: he says authorities must ensure that there is public participation and awareness in the implementation and benefits of the system, ensure the fortification of data protection and security, build the system on privacy by design, and then put in place an appropriate legal framework, which will also ensure non-discrimination.
The digital ID system for Kenya will undeniably bring many benefits to citizens, the report notes, but it underlines the fact that “it is crucial to strike a balance between progress and human rights such as privacy.”
Tony Blair Institute draws ten lessons for planning digital ID systems
In a related development, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, has in a blogpost, outlined ten things which countries should take note of when implementing digital ID ecosystems, noting that a digital ID system that is well-designed will definitely transform how people get access to public services.
When planning digital ID projects, implementers must set priorities and draw a clear roadmap, the Institute says.
It adds that is also important to assess existing ID systems, strengthen national digital infrastructure, integrate multiple registries, issue verifiable digital identity, open enrollment to make the ID system inclusive, put in place strong governance and legal frameworks, set up a trust framework, enable impactful use cases and invest in building digital skills, as well as make sure there is interoperability to allow digital ID verification across borders.