Kenya: Risks in transforming the national identification system to a digital ID system

Published: 6/Août/2021
Source: Africa Portal

Grace Mutung’u discusses Kenya’s digital ID scheme, Huduma Namba, and the challenges of access and inclusion for marginalised communities. She questions whether it is genuinely revolutionising government services.

I recently encountered a young man who was travelling to Nyeri, a town that is about 200km from Nairobi. When I asked him what business he had there, he explained that he was going to have his fingerprints taken for a police clearance certificate, popularly known as ‘good conduct’. The certificate was a prerequisite for a job he was applying for. Although his usual residence is in Machakos county, about 40km from the city centre, he opted to travel to Nyeri as it was the nearest place he could get his fingerprints taken within the next week.

As we chatted, he explained the new process for application for a ‘good conduct’, lauding the e-governance system that allows a person to apply for the document from their phone or neighbourhood cybercafe. Nevertheless, the process is not fully online. One must physically visit a designated police office to have their fingerprints taken. For the young man, getting an appointment at the nearest office would take at least 45 days. He therefore opted to have his fingerprints taken at Nyeri, the nearest office with an open slot on the following day.

His story is an illustration of the identification ecosystem in Kenya. On the one hand, the country is in a race to becoming a digital economy powerhouse. Reports such as the World Bank’s digital economy assessment rate the country fairly in areas such as digital infrastructure, skills, platforms, entrepreneurship and financial services. A key component of digital platforms is the ability for people to identify themselves online.

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Themes: Cartes d’identité et passeports
Regions: Kenya
Year: 2021