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Kenya unveils ambitious digital ID, biometric passports issuance plans

Kenya unveils ambitious digital ID, biometric passports issuance plans

Thirteen million Kenyans have already obtained the new generation Maisha Namba digital ID as the government hastens up to meet a 32 million issuance target in the next two years.

Principal Secertary for Immigration and Citizen Services, Julius Bitok, disclosed this information recently while speaking at a conference organized by the Network of Data Protection Associations (NADPA) in Nairobi.

The ID announcement comes just around the same time the country’s Interior Secretary says that biometric passports will be processed in just one week as from August 1.

According to Bitok, as reported by local portal Kenyans, there is no time to waste as the government ramps up its digital transformation agenda with speedy issuance of IDs. He disclosed that so far, between 20,000 and 30,000 Maisha Namba digital IDs are issued on a daily basis, and that the target is to serve 32 million Kenyans in the next two years.

Kenya’s launch of the Maisha Namba digital ID faced some issues at the beginning of the process, including a court order halting issuance for many months. This partly led to a huge backlog of ID and passports in the country. The greenlight from the court to recommence the ID issuance process however came in February.

Beyond the seamless service delivery experience with the new digital ID, Bitok says it will eliminate the need for duplicative data submission by citizens seeking authentication for access to important services. He explained that the Maisha Namba is one of the four components of the digital ID ecosystem, and it will serve as the sole proof of ID for individuals after being issued at birth.

Digital ID is one element of DPI the Kenyan government is relying on to expedite its digital transformation agenda, the official said, adding that enormous efforts are also being made, including regular audits, to maintain strong data protection standards and protect people’s IDs from forgery or theft.

Bitok also spoke about measures taken already to ensure data protection safety on the eCitizen platform which is used by many to access digital government services, as well as steps to ensure that historically marginalized groups are not excluded from the digital ID scheme.

In April, Bitok said they hope to issue three million IDs and one million biometric passports before the year runs out.

More revenue expected from digital govt platform

Talking further about the eCitizen platform, the Principal Secretary said the more users it gets, the more revenue it will bring into the state coffers. Everything being equal, the government expects to rake in about one billion Kenyan shillings (about US$7.6 million) daily from the platform by December, according to The Star. Already, the daily revenue is said to be around 700 million Kenyan shillings (approximately $5.3 million).

Bitok is hopeful the target will be met as more citizens are issued a digital ID which is a requirement to have access to the eCitizen portal. The money is from payments made by Kenyans to access at least 16,000 digital government services, the outlet mentions.

Rights groups concerned about new ID issuance guidelines

As part of efforts to ensure that no one is left behind the digital transformation drive, the Kenyan government recently introduced new rules to guide the process of obtaining a national ID.

The rules follow a decision early last month by President William Ruto to do away with a vetting process which required people not considered indigenous Kenyans to proof their nationality before getting an identity card.

In the wake of these new rules, some rights watchdogs have reacted, calling on the government not to repeat the same discriminatory practices which were common in the previous digital ID regime, Citizen Digital reports.

In a statement, the groups say some of the requirements mentioned in the new rules still make it possible for people who have suffered identity crises in the past to still be excluded from the current system.

Passports to be issued in one week from August

With regard to biometric passports, the Interior Cabinet Secretary said last month that the credentials will be issued in seven days beginning August 1, this year.

Kithure Kindiki, per The Standard, said the situation will further be improved upon with the processing slashed to only three days from September 1. At the moment, it takes about ten working days for a passport to be issued in Kenya.

The government official said the reason for the changes is to streamline the passport issuance process and to avoid the recurring backlogs which the Immigration Department has been contending with over the years.

Now, he says the government has “facilitated the acquisition of adequate passport printing equipment, paid all the pending supplier bills, and addressed the supply chain constraints.”

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