The Kenyan government plans to launch a digital identification (ID) that uses iris and fingerprint scans for authentication. President William Ruto shared this during his speech at the East Africa Device Assembly launch on Monday in Machakos County, Kenya.
The digital ID is currently in testing mode and will be officially launched in December, Ruto said.
“The digital ID, which has been a major problem to us for a very long time, is now in testing mode for the next two months. I have been assured by all the stakeholders and the ministries concerned that by December, we will be able to launch digital IDs,” said President Williams Ruto.
- The digital ID project, Maisha Card, has the “Maisha Namba,” a lifelong personal ID number that will be assigned to Kenyans upon registration or at birth.
- The number serves as the birth certificate number for newborns and transforms into an official ID number when they turn 18.
- The digital ID system will serve as a personal identification number (PIN) for accessing government services, including state, educational and medical resources.
- According to the government, this move will phase out the current physical IDs in 3-5 years.
What we don’t know
- It is unknown what technology the digital ID project is built on. The previous project, Huduma Namba, was built on blockchain.
- The Interior and ICT Ministers, tasked with ensuring the project’s success, clashed over who should choose the contractor to oversee it.
- While the deputy head of the Interior Ministry, Julius Bitok, favors hiring a Pakistani service provider for the project, ICT Minister Eliud Owalo prefers a European firm.
- However, Bitok sought the expertise of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) of Pakistan to implement the project.
- The launch of this digital identification comes shortly after the Kenyan government banned Worldcoin, a blockchain-based digital identity company.
- Worldcoin registered its participants by scanning their irises, similar to Kenya’s recent plan to use iris and fingerprint authentication.
- However, the project was suspended and later banned in the country due to concerns about privacy and security.
- The previous Kenyan government introduced a digital identity project called Huduma Namba, the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS).
- The project faced heavy criticism from citizens, who cited privacy and data security concerns. Additionally, many Kenyans were excluded from the scheme after it was rolled out.
- Ruto also described the project as a complete fraud.
“That Huduma Namba was a complete fraud because we lost almost Ksh.15 billion and got very little out of it. Those who did that should be ashamed of themselves,” he said.
- The Huduma Namba project has since been discontinued. The High Court of Kenya tagged it as illegal for conflicting with the Data Protection Act.