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Kenya approves Maisha Namba, plans launch this month with $6.8M budget

Kenya approves Maisha Namba, plans launch this month with $6.8M budget

Lawmakers on Kenya’s Technical Committee of Principle Secretaries have approved four pieces of the country’s digital identity plan, and the government will begin rolling out the new digital ID this month.

The Maisha Namba has accepted, along with the accompanying Maisha Card, digital signature and Master National Population Register, Kenyans.co.ke reports. Maisha Namba will be issued to newborns, taking the place of a birth certificate, while the Maisha Card will replace the national ID card, Immigration Secretary Julis Bitok says. The same number will also be used for death registration. Digital signatures will be accepted for identity verification in mobile transactions, and the population register will integrate Kenya’s existing databases of citizens and refugees.

The four digital ID products will go live on September 29, Bitok says, to meet President William Ruto’s directive to implement the national digital ID and digitize 5,000 government services within 90 days.

The Maisha Card will include a machine-readable zone compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, and the digital ID will be used for access to both public and private sector services to cut fraud.

The big change from Huduma Namba, according to Bitok, is the elimination of the mandatory new registration and biometrics enrollment process from Maisha Card issuance. The integrated population register will include biometrics, however, as a government document clearly visible in a Citizen TV Kenya report makes clear.

“We will not go back to Kenyans for biometrics because we will use the existing database,” Bitok explained in a press conference, as quoted by The Star.

The new system will also benefit from lessons learned about the importance of public engagement, Bitok says.

The government has budgeted 1 billion Kenyan shillings (approximately US$6.8 million) for the launch, including public education and registration exercises.

A two to three year transition is planned, with legacy national IDs being phased out. Bitok says there are roughly 1.5 million ID card replacements per year, plus around the same number of Kenyans turning 18, and becoming eligible for the Maisha Card. Before the age of 18, Maisha Namba’s Unique Personal Identifier (UPI) can be used for school admissions, the national health insurance and social security systems, and driver’s licenses.

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