The government of Kenya is launching a policy framework for efficient online registration of births and deaths. In brief, it has introduced a Unique Personal Identifier (UPI) for newborns.
The UPI will serve as the child’s number in primary school and secondary school. Eventually, when the child turns 18, the UPI becomes their national identity number.
Additionally, UPI will serve as the NHIF Number, NSSF number, a driving license number, and finally the death certificate number.
The Ministry of Interior and National Administration is working on the introduction of the third generation smart digital Identification (ID).
Notably, the introduction of UPIs is a reiteration of the ICT Policy 2019. The policy recognizes the importance of digital IDs in enabling efficient and effective service delivery.
Similar Unique Personal Identifier Case
Estonia is probably the European country most famous for its digital ID system. The unique ID is issued at birth and serves a person for life. In particular, Estonians use it to access public and private services without the need for extra verification.
Digital IDs have proved a success with massive uptake in the population. In fact, as of 2019 about 98% of the Estonian population made active use of the system.
The training workshop for Unique Personal Identifier registration occurred successfully at the Kenya School of Government in Kabete.
Regional and county Civil Registration officers attended the training.
During the event, Immigration and Citizen Services PS Prof Julius Bitok said: “In many countries which are advanced, you don’t need a 10-year census where people are counted at night. What we are launching is foundational to ensure that in the future, we have accurate data about our population”
The government promises the end of the census to keep track of the population.
The government has committed to roll out the Unique Personal Identifier (UPI) by September 16, 2023. Coincidentally, this is the global date set aside to mark milestones in digital identity.
“As we reflect on UPI, we are very keen to identity September 16 as the day the government will be able to roll out some of the activities to support the UPI which will be the foundation for our smart identity,” said Prof Bitok
He was addressing the ID4Africa conference held in Nairobi.
Benefits of a Unique Personal Identifier
As seen in the Estonian case, digital unique IDs make registration easier and more scalable.
The goal of this digital ID system is to improve government service delivery and financial inclusion.
Thus, the government of Kenya intends to reap the following benefits from the rollout:
- 100 percent registrations of births.
- Better registration of deaths with the benefit of easy access to digital death certificates
- Improve collection and maintenance of accurate government records
- Easier access to state services after the launch. The government intends to onboard 5,000 services on e-Citizen
- Better Know-Your-Customer (KYC) profiles will minimize financial crimes and identity fraud
- End the need for vetting of border communities as a prerequisite to issuing them with IDs, passports, and other identification documents.
- Enhance collection of revenue charged for Government documents
Unique Personal Identifier Privacy Concerns
Digital IDs, on the other hand, raise serious privacy and security concerns. This primarily is on the collection and storage of personal information.
However, Kenya is developing a new policy framework to support and regulate the use of digital identities. This policy framework outlines the principles and standards for collecting, storing, using, and sharing personal information to protect individuals’ privacy and security.
Security concerns are very relevant in current times. For instance, they have been recent reports of Chinese hackers accessing Kenyan government servers.
The Data Protection Act 2019 requires a data protection impact assessment (DPIA) to be conducted before a digital ID program is rolled out. Currently, it is not clear if this has been done.
A DPIA looks into the privacy and security risks associated with a specific data processing activity. Thereafter, the DPIA sets out the procedures to mitigate those risks.
While improving service delivery to its citizens, the government must protect citizens’ personal information and privacy rights.
Unique Personal Identifier Replaces Huduma Namba
This marks the end of the Huduma Namba initiative launched by former president Uhuru Kenyatta.
In 2018, people were registered into Huduma Namba in the first phase. However, the High Court declared Huduma Card unconstitutional on October 2021.
During the ID4 Africa Conference, ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo stated that the government does not intend to re-introduce the Huduma Namba.
“We will consider what works best for us as a country while factoring in all available options through a consultative approach that addresses the concerns of many of our stakeholders,” said CS Owalo.
The government is yet to give details on the application process for the Unique Personal Identifier.