ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo has hinted that the state might pursue a new digital identity for Kenyans to replace the failed Huduma Namba that was introduced by the previous administration back in 2018.
This development was made during an extended interview with Citizen TV, following his appointment after the August 2022 polls.
The reveal was preceded by a discussion about the government’s plans for digitization and the provision of services.
The CS mentioned that they will not be relying on the exchequer (government treasury) for funding and that there will be fees for services. He added that some of the fees will go towards the cost of professional fees and that some will be used to strengthen the infrastructure and ensure additional services.
Owalo added that the goal is for the system to be self-sustaining.
Circling back to the Huduma Namba project, CS Owalo said that it was intended to create a digital identity for virtual transactions between the government and the public but was not properly explained or introduced to the public, leading to suspicions and mistrust.
“The Huduma Namba was a well-intended initiative, but the process of introducing it into the marketplace was wrong. Whenever you are introducing something new of that nature, you need to explain to Kenyans why it is imperative to introduce such an initiative. They need to understand what it entails, and you need to seek stakeholders’ views. And one of the important stakeholders is the Kenyan public,” says the CS.
To this end, the CS emphasized the importance of a digital identity for transactions and says that it is a priority in their plan.
“The pitfall that befell Huduma Namba was that there wasn’t adequate sensitization at the beginning, and you remember it was being launched at a time when there was also a clouded political atmosphere. So, there were suspicions around it,” he adds.
Now, the CS says that the government will roll out a similar project in the coming days as mentioned above.
The digital identity will likely have a new name, as the CS said it will not be referred to as Huduma Namba. This also hints that the project, which cost taxpayers billions of shillings, could be replaced by the incoming digital identification system, for which Kenyans will not be required to own a physical card for it.
“I don’t want to call it Huduma Namba, I want to look at it from a conceptual perspective. What we are talking about here is a digital identity; you can call it Huduma Namba, or you can call it any other name… so let’s look at it from that concept, that we need a digital identity to facilitate virtual transactions between the government and members of the public,” CS Owalo concludes.