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History repeats with Kenyan High Court blocking Maisha Namba for lack of DPIA

History repeats with Kenyan High Court blocking Maisha Namba for lack of DPIA

The lack of a data protection impact assessment has scuttled Kenya’s government’s rollout of the Maisha Namba national digital ID project, with the country’s High Court ruling it must pause. The court intervention is a repeat of a decision that ultimately marked the beginning of the end of the digital ID scheme’s predecessor, Huduma Namba.

The implementation of the associated chip-bearing physical identity card, digital ID, unique personal identifier (UPI) and National Master Population Register must all halt until the project is compliant with Kenya’s Data Protection Act, TechCabal reports.

The legal challenge was mounted by civil society groups including constitutional lobby group Katiba Institute, Nubian Rights Forum, the Kenya Human Rights Commission and Defenders Coalition.

Section 31 of the Data Protection Act requires the government to perform a data protection impact assessment before processing digital identity data, according to the Kenya edition of Nation.

Citizen TV Kenya also reports the ruling found that public participation and communication was inadequate.

Katiba Institute argues that all biometric and biographic data enrolled during registration was illegally collected, and that the government does not have a legal basis for the digital identity system.

The previous attempt at standing up a national digital ID, the Huduma Namba scheme of former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government, was shuttered by William Ruto’s government at least in part because of a lack of engagement with Kenyans. The project was also criticized for inadequate privacy protections, and some lawmakers have called for a probe into what the government got out of the ten billion Kenyan Shillings (over US$69 million) it allegedly spent on Huduma Namba.

Huduma Namba’s rollout was halted by a High Court ruling that it did not comply with the Data Protection Act due to the lack of data protection impact assessment, in a challenge also brought by Katiba Institute.

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