Maisha Cards: Kenyan government set to roll out digital national identity cards

The Maisha cards will serve as the official identifier of Kenyans

The Kenyan Government has allocated KSh 1 billion to the introduction of Unique Personal Identifiers (UPIs), also known as Maisha Cards for its citizens. These digital IDs will replace traditional physical Identity Cards, marking a significant shift in the country’s identification system.

Julius Bitok, the Principal Secretary of Immigration, revealed this project, emphasizing that Maisha Cards will be issued to all young Kenyan citizens. The UPIs will serve as the official identifier throughout an individual’s educational journey, for tax payments to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), and even as a death certificate number upon an individual’s demise.

Bitok stated, “We are implementing the president’s directive to introduce a digital ID within 90 days. We shall now have a new number called the Maisha Number that everyone born in Kenya will have. It will be the birth certificate number, used as the ID number, for work, for KRA PIN.” Additionally, the digital ID will also be issued to individuals upon reaching the age of 18.

Maisha Cards: Kenyan government set to roll out digital national identity cards
Julius Bitok, the Principal Secretary of Immigration

This transition represents a move from second-generation to third-generation IDs, with a key feature being digital accessibility. Individuals will have the option to carry a physical copy or store a digital version of their Maisha Card on their mobile devices.

The official launch of the UPI initiative is scheduled for September 29, with President Dr. William Ruto expected to preside over the event. These digital IDs promise a multitude of benefits, including improved accuracy in birth and death registrations, enhanced access to e-citizen Government Services, streamlined Know Your Customer (KYC) processes for financial institutions, enhanced revenue collection, and increased precision in government records.

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Reactions of Kenyan citizens to Maisha Cards

The adoption of digital IDs has triggered concerns regarding privacy and security, particularly in the collection and storage of personal information. In response, Kenya is actively developing a comprehensive policy framework aimed at regulating and supporting the use of digital identities. This framework outlines principles and standards for the collection, storage, utilization, and sharing of personal information to safeguard individuals’ privacy and security.

The Data Protection Act of 2019 mandates the conducting of a data protection impact assessment (DPIA) before the rollout of any digital ID program. DPIAs are essential in identifying and mitigating privacy and security risks associated with specific data processing activities, ensuring that the transition to Maisha Cards is both efficient and secure.

Why more countries should adopt UPI

In an era where identity theft and fraud pose significant threats, UPIs emerge as a robust solution, offering secure and verifiable means of identification. Furthermore, these digital identifiers facilitate citizens’ access to government services online, contributing to the development of e-government and digital services that are both convenient and efficient.

Several countries have implemented unique personal identifier systems for various purposes. Countries like Nigeria with National Identification Numbers (NINs). In the United States, Social Security Numbers (SSNs) are central to taxation and social benefits. The United Kingdom employs National Insurance Numbers (NINs) for tracking contributions to social benefits. Canada uses Social Insurance Numbers (SINs) for taxation and government benefits.

Still on this, India relies on Aadhaar numbers, a 12-digit code tied to biometric and demographic data, for a wide array of services. Sweden utilizes Personal Identity Numbers (Personnummer) for identification and services. Australia issues Tax File Numbers (TFNs) for tax reporting. Germany has the German Identification Number (Personalausweisnummer) for administrative tasks.

Additionally, Singapore utilizes National Registration Identity Card (NRIC) numbers for identification and government access.

The adoption of UPIs simplifies complex processes like permit and license applications, benefiting both citizens and government employees by saving valuable time. Beyond operational advantages, the digital nature of UPIs opens doors to data analytics, offering a wealth of insights to inform policy decisions and enhance service delivery.

Maisha card

UPIs align with global goals for sustainable development, particularly in areas related to identity, financial inclusion, and efficient public service delivery. Nevertheless, successful implementation necessitates meticulous planning and meticulous addressing of privacy and security concerns. Ensuring inclusivity and respecting individual rights is paramount. Each country must evaluate its unique circumstances and readiness before embarking on such a transformative digital journey.

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