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New report pokes holes in Huduma Namba

By Frankline Sunday | January 25th 2020

The government has been criticised for implementing the Huduma Namba digital identity system without involving the Kenyan public.

A new report by US non-profit firm Mozilla cites Kenya’s Huduma Namba and India’s Aadhaar as examples where lack of public participation and opacity in the tendering process undermines the perceived benefits of digital identity systems.

"Several countries have implemented digital ID systems without any laws in place to regulate government use of personal data, including India, Kenya, Nigeria and Malaysia,” states the report in part.

"In Kenya, the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), which allows the government to collect several biometrics including DNA, was passed as an amendment buried in a much larger Bill, a clear violation of the Kenyan Constitution’s requirement for public participation and consultation on substantive legislation."

According to the report, this demonstrates a trend where "governments are keen to present ID systems as technical systems that can be passed as executive decrees”, potentially exposing citizens to increased surveillance from both the state and private companies.

The report comes days after President Uhuru Kenyatta criticised the Judiciary for stopping implementation of the controversial Sh6 billion project after a legal challenge by activist Okiya Omtatah.

The final judgment in the case will be delivered on January 30, even as the government finalises the Huduma Bill 2019 that if passed will make the Huduma Namba compulsory for all Kenyans.

According to Mozilla, lack of transparency and public participation denies citizens the opportunity to weigh in not just on how to implement them but if the project is necessary in the first place.

"Transparency in vendor procurement is another important aspect of any robust consultation process,” states the report, and queried "the involvement of French vendor IDEMIA, formerly known as OT Morpho, which provided biometric voter identification systems during the contested 2017 Kenyan presidential elections, where serious concerns were raised regarding the sale of voter data.” 

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