Kenya’s Technical Committee of Principle Secretaries has granted approval for four components of the nation’s digital identity initiative. The government is poised to commence the rollout of this new digital ID later this month.
The Maisha Namba, along with the Maisha Card, digital signature, and Master National Population Register, have all received the green light. The Maisha Namba will replace birth certificates and will be issued to newborns. The Maisha Card, on the other hand, will take the place of the national ID card, as confirmed by Immigration Secretary Julis Bitok. This unique number will also be employed for death registration purposes. Digital signatures will be employed for identity verification during mobile transactions, and the population register will consolidate Kenya’s existing citizen and refugee databases.
Bitok revealed that these four digital ID elements will be operational starting September 29. This move is in response to President William Ruto’s directive to implement the national digital ID and digitize 5,000 government services within a 90-day timeframe.
The Maisha Card will feature a machine-readable zone that complies with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards. This digital ID will grant access to both public and private sector services, thereby reducing the risk of fraud.
A key distinction from the previous Huduma Namba system, as highlighted by Bitok, is the removal of the mandatory new registration and biometric enrollment process for Maisha Card issuance. Nonetheless, the integrated population register will incorporate biometric data, as evidenced in a Citizen TV Kenya report.
Bitok stated during a press conference, “We will not require Kenyans to provide biometrics again because we will leverage the existing database.”
Furthermore, this new system has incorporated lessons learned regarding the importance of public engagement, as pointed out by Bitok.
The government has allocated 1 billion Kenyan shillings (approximately US$6.8 million) for the launch, which includes funding for public awareness campaigns and registration activities.
The transition to this new system is expected to span two to three years, during which legacy national IDs will be gradually phased out. Bitok has estimated that there are approximately 1.5 million ID card replacements annually, in addition to a similar number of Kenyan citizens reaching the age of 18 and becoming eligible for the Maisha Card. Prior to turning 18, the Maisha Namba’s Unique Personal Identifier (UPI) can be utilized for school admissions, national health insurance, social security, and driver’s licenses.