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Kenya gazettes new digital ID legislation, adds face and iris biometrics

Kenya gazettes new digital ID legislation, adds face and iris biometrics

Legislation to accommodate a new biometric citizen registration modality within the framework of an upcoming digital ID system has been revised by the Kenyan government and gazetted ahead of an imminent pilot.

The Principal Secretary for Immigration and Citizen Services, Julius Bitok, made the announcement recently during a ceremony attended by several stakeholders in the digital ID rollout chain, including religious leaders, The Star reports.

The Registration of Persons Regulations, which was amended by Interior Cabinet Secretary, Kithure Kindiki, on October 25, has been revised to factor in provisions for the issuance of a digital ID card and a digital register of persons, the outlet notes. The revised Maisha Digital Card law proposal also provides for the Unique Personal Identifier (UPI), which shall be assigned to newborns, making it easier for birth certificates to be established.

Another novelty in the gazetted amendment is the inclusion of facial recognition and iris biometrics as requirements for ID verification, in addition to the already existing fingerprint biometrics option.

During the meeting, Bitok assured that with the legislation now published, a pilot to test the viability and functionality of the digital ID system will begin soon, before a nationwide rollout. He emphasized the primacy of securing the system, adding that the Maisha Card will be tamper-proof.

He said as part of continuous planning for the ID scheme, consultations with different concerned groups will continue as the government seeks to avoid shortfalls seen in the previous digital ID dispensation. More than 698 consultation meetings with stakeholders have already taken place, he mentioned.

Religious leaders show approval for Maisha Card digital ID

In the meantime, religious leaders, who attended the ceremony, said they are ready to throw their weight behind the digital ID rollout by contributing to the sensitization and awareness process. However, they have urged the government to make sure the rollout is properly done.

Bishop Philip Kitoto, chairman of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya (EAK), was quoted as urging the government to ensure that the program addresses key concerns, especially of data privacy and security.

Another religious leader from the Seventh Say Adventist Church, Samuel Makori, said the government is doing “the right thing” with the project, but hoped that adequate measures are being taken to avoid duplication of roles and waste of resources.

It remains unclear when the new digital ID program will be launched after the government put off an initial plan early this month.

In a recent ID4Africa podcast, Bitok also reiterated the government’s commitment to put in place a proper governance framework for the digital ID system.

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