Source: African Law and Technology Institute (Dar es Salaam) / Research ICT Africa (Cape Town)
RIA is working with 10 African partners evaluating the rollout of digital ID systems in their respective countries under the auspices of our BIO-ID project. Our country partners are summarising their findings in blogs, and in this installation, Dr Patricia Boshe of the of the African Law and Technology Institute argues that the digital ID framework in Tanzania poses a significant threat to personal privacy and the protection of personal data. To delve deeper into the issues highlighted in her blog, scroll down for an interview that RIA conducted with her.
In an age where technology is advancing at an accelerated pace, there is an undeniable need for people to be able to identify themselves securely, on and offline, and have equal and indiscriminate access to services. In fact, Article 6 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes ‘legal identity’ a right of every person. It is on this basis that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically goal 16.9, emphasises the need for states to “provide legal identity to all, including birth registration, by 2030”.
In 2014, the World Bank and others launched the Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative to help countries realise the transformational potential of digital identification systems to achieve SDG 16.9. In Africa, this initiative was adopted in the same year under the ‘Identity for All in Africa (ID4Africa)’ campaign; the mission being to help the region realise uniform universal legal identification for all people.
In Tanzania, the idea of providing legal identity to its citizens took root as far back as 1961 when Tanganyika got her independence. The first president of Tanzania, the late Mwl. Julius Kambarage Nyerere, emphasised the need to establish a national identity for the citizens of the new country. Unfortunately, due to financial and other capacity constraints, this ‘dream’ wasn’t realised even after parliament enacted the Registration and Identification of Persons Act in 1986. The law only came into force 25 years later after being published in the Government Gazette (Notice No.257A of 2011), made possible by the establishment of the National Identification Authority (NIDA) in 2008 by presidential mandate.
Registration of citizens began in 2013, with approximately 6.5 million residents from seven regions getting registered over two years. However, only 40% of registered residents received their national ID cards. In 2016, the first batch of national IDs were handed out. Unfortunately, the quality of the ID cards raised concerns, especially the illegible signatures, making most of the IDs unacceptable by several financial providers. As a result, the President fired the director-general of NIDA with a new acting director ordering a massive recall of over 2 million ID cards. The bottom line is that the overall rate of registrations and issuance of cards was slower than expected.