The President of Kenya is trying to get a years-long digital ID program back on track. In a speech at the end of last week, President William Ruto said that he has asked the country’s Ministry of Information, Communications and The Digital Economy (“ICT”) to make establishing a digital ID for Kenyans into a reality by the end of this year.
As PYMNTS reports, Kenya’s quest for a digital ID system began well before President Ruto took office last September. In 2019, the government established the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), which was meant to assign an identity number called “Huduma Namba” to each citizen; but the program has since struggled to get off the ground, over criticisms related to privacy and inclusivity, and a lack of legislative framework.
But President Ruto has signaled that digital transformation will be an important concern under his administration, noting that the number of services available online has increased considerably since he took office. In his speech, he singled out his “good friend” Eliud Owalo, the country’s ICT secretary, as a primary agent in the digital ID effort.
The push comes amid broader enthusiasm for digital ID around the world, with a growing number of governments recognizing the advantages of digital ID in serving citizens more effectively while reducing administrative costs. Yoti, a digital ID specialist based in the UK, has performed research highlighting particular opportunities to apply digital ID in multiple African countries, including Kenya, where digital ID could help improve access to critical maternal healthcare services, the company argued.
As for what Kenya’s digital ID system would look like as it begins to take shape under the Ruto administration, the details remain unclear. But it may be worth noting that biometric technology has been relatively popular in the country, particularly when it comes to identifying government workers in a bid to eliminate “ghost workers” fraudulently drawing government salaries.
Also worth noting is the expansion of Verified Africa, a selfie onboarding specialist that announced its expansion into Ghana, South Africa, and Kenya last September.