BrandArena: Kenya to Introduce Digital ID System Using Iris, Fingerprints by December - President Ruto

Thursday 2 November 2023

Kenya to Introduce Digital ID System Using Iris, Fingerprints by December - President Ruto

Kenyan President William Ruto has announced the implementation of a new digital ID system called Maisha Namba in December 2023. This system is intended to alter how citizens prove their identification through iris scans and fingerprints.

President Ruto said during the presentation of locally manufactured smartphones that the impending digital ID system will eliminate the need for physical identity credentials. He emphasised that no Kenyan will be required to carry any paper, plastic, or other kind of identification. The goal of this improvement is to make the system more efficient and convenient for everyone.

The Maisha Namba system was initially set to be launched on October 1, with President Ruto set to grace the event in Nakuru County. However, the government abruptly cancelled the launch on the same day it was announced, providing no specific reasons for the indefinite postponement.

President Ruto promised that the new digital ID system would be ready by the end of December, but he didn’t give a specific date. However, this project has faced many problems before, like legal issues and court orders that delayed it. We’ll have to wait and see if December will finally bring the fulfilment
of this long-awaited promise.

Maisha Namba is not just a digital ID; it represents a lifelong unique identification number issued at birth and a Maisha Card that will replace the current second-generation national ID cards. For existing ID holders, their identification numbers will be seamlessly translated into Maisha Namba, ensuring a smooth transition to the advanced Maisha Card, which supports a virtual ID feature.

The Maisha Card will enable cardholders to log their personal details comprehensively and access online government services swiftly. These changes will pave the way for electronic cards and registers while officially recognising the Unique Personal Identifier (UPI).

These developments come after recent changes were introduced by the Interior Cabinet Secretary, marking a crucial milestone in the development of the Maisha Namba system. The move is expected to enhance efficiency, accuracy, and security in the registration and identification of individuals.

This announcement follows a month after ten local human rights groups raised concerns about the rollout of Maisha Namba and the Unique Personal Identifier (UPI), leading to a temporary halt of the project. The groups claimed that essential steps for improving the identification system had been bypassed.

Kenya entered into an agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in August 2023 to help build the country’s Digital Identity System, emphasizing the nation’s commitment to modernizing its identification infrastructure and improving citizen services. The success of Maisha Namba will depend on addressing challenges while maintaining public trust and data privacy.

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