Kenyans stare at new digital ID plan after Huduma Namba flop

Written by on 12 January 2023

The government is considering the use of the controversial revealed plans to use the Huduma Namba idea, which flopped under former administration, for its own version of a digital multi-purpose identity card scheme.

ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo said President William Ruto’s government was keen to explore the same idea in rolling out its newly launched digitisation programme.

“The intention of Huduma Namba was good because it was trying to ensure we have a digital identity that could facilitate virtual transactions between the government and the public as far as the provision of services is concerned,” Owalo said during an interview with a local TV station

He said the pitfall that befell Huduma Namba is that there was no adequate sensitisation at the beginning.

“And if you remember, it was being launched at a time when there was also a crowded political atmosphere. So, there were suspicions about it,” Owalo explained.

The ICT cabinet secretary said without giving details that the government will come up with a new digital identity to facilitate virtual transactions between the State and members of the public as part of Kenya Kwanza government’s new plan to digitise over 5,000 government services within the next six months.

“I do not want to call it Huduma Namba, what we are talking about here is a digital identity card…you can call it any other name. What we are referring to is a digital identity to facilitate virtual transactions between the government and members of the public,” said Owalo.

Several documents

Presently, Kenyans are required to carry several documents like a national identity card, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) personal identification number, driving license, passport, and many others.

But the proposed digital ID, akin to Huduma Namba, will see all these documents recorded in different databases so the new ID consolidates the information to arrive at a ‘single source of truth’ regarding a Kenyan. Part of that process, according to Owalo, has seen the State take over the running of the e-Citizen service portal previously operated externally by a private company.

“We have just taken over the e-citizen platform and want to upgrade the infrastructure and by next week we will be onboarding additional services on that platform from consumption of services by the public,” said Owalo in the interview.

The Huduma Namba project conceived by retired President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration failed to materialise following court battles that declared it unconstitutional.

In October 2021, High Court put brakes to the national roll out of Huduma Namba cards, ruling that the move had grossly violated the provisions of the Personal Data Protection, bringing to a halt the over Sh10 billion digital ID scheme.

Public services

The Huduma Namba dream had been envisioned to serve as a tool for Kenyans to have access to certain critical public services and advance the country’s digital economic efforts under the Digital Economy Blueprint, a framework that promised to improve Kenya’s and Africa’s ability to leapfrog economic growth.

The key benefits of a vibrant digital economy include an expansion of business opportunities for Kenyan businesses, it also offers to create new employment opportunities aND enhance public services.

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