How NTSA’s Smart Driving License Promises to Change Kenya’s Roads

Beyond Alcoblow: Interview with NTSA's Dr. Fernando Wangila

Dr. Fernando Wangila
Dr. Fernando Wangila, head of ICT at NTSA

Dr. Fernando WangilaKenya’s National Transport and Safety Board (NTSA) has been on a journey to transform the Kenya transport sector. The body is mostly known for the infamous alcoblow gadget that tests the alcohol level of drivers and charges them according to law. But this has since been put on hold after a court declared the use of breathalyzers to charge drunkards illegal according to the traffic act. But that’s a fraction of what NTSA has been up to.

We sat with Dr. Fernando Wangila, an Innovation and Technology Management PHD graduate and head of ICT at NTSA to try understand what the government body has been up to as far as automating the transport sector is concerned. Fernando believes that NTSA is misunderstood since people associate them with preventing drivers from using their cars, but what they really want is safety. Fernando went on to break down the role of NTSA, stating that NTSA is going through a journey of automating all of the transport sector.

“We started with the automation of the Transport Integrated Management System (TIMS) which is a database that holds all transport issues like motor vehicle inspection and driver’s licenses. That’s when drivers’ licenses started being renewed online. Phase two was still on TIMS, getting all information of vehicles and drivers. Now we are on phase three where we are bringing the smart drivers’ license,” said Dr. Fernando.

Smart Driver's License (leaked)
Leaked image of the smart driver’s license that’s coming later in the month.

As Fernando explains, the license whose design has since leaked online has a chip that will hold driver information and also contain a points system. This will be read by a chip reading POS device that can read and deduct points. For example when stopped for an overlapping offence, you lose two points out of twenty allocated weekly. After a week you get back your points, but the history remains.

NTSA Smart Drivers License Reader

insurance firms will use the TIMS data to decide insurance premiums that are paid where a good driver pays a lower premium and vice versa

This TIMS data will then be available for use by third parties like insurance firms who will then use it to decide insurance premiums that are paid where a good driver pays a lower premium and vice versa. One thing that’s definitely going to be an outcome is behaviour change. The personal data which will also be available on one’s TIMS account online is expected to be so trusted, such that an employer can ask to see your profile and determine if they want to hire you.

The points system has always been there with the red booklet, but the process is manual, where the traffic police is supposed to write the points at the back of the booklet, but that doesn’t happen.

Renewing of the driver’s license will be as simple as payments again’st your driver’s license number via mobile money. This goes beyond the current process where you need to go to the TIMS website to make a renewal.

No need to “wait till Monday” to pay your bond.

According to Fernando, the card will come in handy with spot fines, which is a role of the judiciary where instead of needing to go to mobile court, the fines can be charged to your account by an integrated financial wallet. No need to “wait till Monday” to pay your bond. NTSA will be in charge of the points while the judiciary will be in charge of the bonds and fines. Connecting the smart driver’s license to the financial wallet will be done at phase four.

Roll-out will start with driver’s license replacements, those are the first to get them, as well as the new students from driving school. There won’t be an interim driver’s license as has been the case previously. Once you are qualified you get your card processed and you pick it instantly after undergoing the personalization process that involves collecting personal data like photo and bio-metrics. The new driver’s license also signifies entry of a new curriculum as well.

Another gem of the new driver’s license will include keeping the driver’s blood group as part of the bio-data kept where the data can be available both locally at the card and remotely on the TIMS profile. Such that in case of an accident, the license holder’s blood group is known at the accident scene.

The smart driver’s license also seeks to eliminate fraud in acquisition of drivers’ license. This is by preventing the development of fake documents from the back streets. The smart license can be validated on the go with the POS device as well as security features embedded on the card. These are visible with the naked eye as well as via Infra-red.

The final design will have a photo of the driver, name, driver’s license details, date of birth and ID number. The first cards come out in the course of this month, July 2017. Again, this will be a phased roll-out, NTSA will announce how fast existing driver’s license holders can get the new ones, and the partners that will be involved in the issuance. But this means that existing drivers’ license holders are not under pressure to renew to the new one, until after 3 years since renewal when they need to.

The traffic act is public information and downloadable online, but Kenyans are known not to read….

Dr. Fernando also mentioned that they have a plan to add a knowledge management tool on the NTSA app that will have information on fines for various offences. The traffic act is public information and downloadable online, but Kenyans are known not to read, so they will just add it there for convenience. One of the infamous offenses is drunk driving, you will lose 14 points out of 20 and 6 months of driving for drunk driving. This means that if you’re caught twice a week drunk driving you will be not only losing a year of driving but also can’t drive again that week.

When plugged into the reader, the card will present what’s required of you based on the type of offense done. Some offenses have lower fines and drivers will be able to see what their penalties are right there on the card reader. The penalties can be tied to your account and you can deal with them either immediately or later.

Smart Driver’s License and High Tech Number Plate

The driver’s license will be linked with the ownership of a vehicle, and related with the number plate and log book via the owner’s ID. There is also a third vehicle identifier on top of number plate and log book which is the RFID sticker that has already been rolled out. This is a self-destructive sticker that’s stuck on the vehicle screen, if removed it becomes void.

This will be used to prevent avoidance of tax, the information on the sticker will tell whether a vehicle was meant for the local market or a neighbouring country. Many business people have used this loophole to import vehicles older than 8 years in the guise that they are meant for the Uganda market, only for them to keep the vehicles in the country for long enough to get them registered locally. The RFID sticker aims to take care of this tax loophole.

It will also be used to track movements, where Public Service Vehicles (matatus) licensed to go to certain routes cannot go to others at their own convenience once this sticker is in place. The details will be there for an arresting officer to see and charge them. This will also be used in future on road tolls, such that the toll station reads the RFID sticker and automatically deducts toll money from your wallet without need for stopping at the toll station. If you don’t have money you will get an SMS telling you that you’ve passed a certain area and owe money.


  1. why don’t any kenyan document have a phone number, everyone has one we need it on the new DL,the ID, passport etc.

    • In the unfortunate event you leave the country or don’t use the number for some time, your phone number is recycled and becomes impossible to get back.

  2. Since the DL will hold details of the car you drive, what happens to those who drive multiple cars or those who have a DL but not a car?

  3. Why are there multiple items doing the same damn thing?!

    Why is there a need for “third license” when there is already a smart license plate? Why can’t they input the details on the smart license plate thus avoiding paying yet another charge.

    NTSA should reduce these multiple levies I see cropping up. While everybody is excited about the ‘smart this’ and ‘smart that’, I’m anxious about the charges that come along with it.

    Picture this: In a year I will have to pay for a smart license plate, a smart driving license (they will not be free), a smart third license, a smart wallet. Add to this their website charges a very sneaky and illegal “convenience fee” that no one is angry about!

  4. […] TIMS, which is an automated system by design, is a database that holds all transport issues and data such as motor vehicle inspections and drivers’ licenses. The automation process that is still underway is being conducted in phases, where the first part involved an online license renewal implementation. The second phase is continual, and aims to gather information on all drivers and vehicles. The third phase is seeing the launch of smart drivers’ licenses that will be equipped with chips that integrate a points system. Insurance firms will leverage the offerings of TIMS’s data to fabricate insurance premiums where competent drivers pay lower premiums, and so forth.  What is more, TIMS data and driver profiles will be accessed by third parties such as employers upon request to do so. You can find more information about the TIMS on this post. […]

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