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Biometric enrolment for Rwanda’s digital ID program imminent, says ICT Minister

Biometric enrolment for Rwanda’s digital ID program imminent, says ICT Minister

Rwanda’s Minister of ICT and Innovation Paula Ingabire recently shared updates on the work that is done by the government to roll out the country’s digital ID system, saying biometric enrolment for the program is expected to kick off soon. She was speaking on a podcast produced by Rwandan private newspaper The New Times.

Rwanda is seeking to put in place what it calls the Rwanda Single Digital ID system (SDID) for which a legislative amendment was introduced to Parliament in April.

The digital ID system, supported by the World Bank, will be based on a national population register which shall contain the biographical and biometric data of citizens and foreigners. The biometrics shall include face, ten fingerprints and the iris.

In the podcast, Ingabire explained, like she has done in the past, that the new digital ID system will see digital IDs issued to newborns as part of efforts to establish a proper personal profile for them at birth. With the current ID system in the country, IDs are issued to citizens only when they have attained the age of 16.

“There are concerns, excitement and fears about what the digital ID is. The excitement for us is to see that every citizen has a digital ID because identification is the very first form of ensuring that you can deliver better services to citizens,” said Ingabire.

She added: “We’ll start very soon with what we call the pre-enrolment phase which is about enroling citizens and getting their biometrics. The current ID that we have is given only to people who are 16 years and above, but we’ll provide the digital ID from birth. That’s one exciting aspect of the digital ID.”

Speaking on those who’ll be eligible for the card, Ingabire noted: “We used to have IDs only for citizens and foreigners. They are categories of people who were never served. Those we call stateless people. They also need to have an ID because the ID is the single form of accessing any service, and we want to make sure that the services are accessible to everyone.”

Other than the digital ID project, the Rwandan minister also spoke about aspects related to the country’s digital transformation journey such as its experience with 5G connectivity deployment tests using unmanned aerial vehicles, the use of Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things to foster seamless delivery of services in various sectors, the government’s partnerships to improve internet coverage in rural communities, digital literacy efforts, the use of blockchain technology, the work that is being done to harmonize national data, as well as other national programs aimed at advancing the country’s digital government and economy ambitions.

Ingabire also spoke about the country’s data protection and privacy law, saying “we wanted to first put in place those instruments which we thought were so necessary for us to ensure that the collection, processing, dissemination and the storage f personal data is well taken care of.”

Experts recently discussed the benefits, opportunities and challenges of implementing a digital ID ecosystem in Rwanda in a different podcast. They also suggested the putting in place of proper guardrails to run the digital ID system.

Rwanda is also making progress on streamlining its civil registration and vital statistics system, with the recent announcement of a tender to digitize the process.

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