Forget paperwork: Soon, a fingerprint is all you will need to prove your identity

Imagine walking into a banking hall without any documentation, not even a national identity card, and being able to carry out a transaction.

It may sound like the stuff of dreams, but it will soon be reality once the Government’s digital project is rolled out. Soon, you will not need to carry your ID or passport to withdraw or deposit money or even apply for a loan. All you will need is your fingerprints.

Population registry

The Government has kicked off a new national identity system that aims to produce a comprehensive digital record of every person in the country, which shall then become a person’s single reference point from birth to death.

First in the line is the establishment of a national digital population registry, which will be developed through a Sh9 billion registration exercise.

The Government hopes to establish the right technology platform for the ambitious exercise within the next month, with biometric data collection expected to begin between November and December.

The project, dubbed Umoja Kenya, is targeted for completion by December 2015.

“We shall urge all Kenyans to come out to the nearest digital registration centre with their birth certificates and ID. At the centres, we shall take their biometrics — that is their fingerprints and facial images — as well scan their documents,” said Mwende Gatabaki, the acting director general of the newly established Kenya Citizens and Foreign Nationals Management Service.

Ms Gatabaki was previously a special advisor on technology at the African Development Bank.

“The whole idea behind revamping our national identity system is to collect our data afresh and create digital records,” she said.

“Going forward, we are going to rely more on your physical features than any document.”

For children aged between three and 12, their iris scans will be used since their fingerprints and facial images will change as they grow.

After the exercise is over, the Government will verify the records with existing biodata and issue each Kenyan with a unique digital ID.

“We estimate that by July next year, we shall have got all Kenyans,” Gatabaki said, adding that from July 2015, anyone applying for a new ID would get a digital one, while those applying for passports would get an e-passport.

Travelling abroad

The processing of these digital documents is expected to take less than a day as all the data on an individual will be easily available, eliminating the need to fill manual forms.

It is also expected to ease the process of accessing loans as customers’ information and credit history will be contained in one card. The digital ID (DID) is also all that will be required to access several Government services.

It will have one’s birth certificate, ID, National Hospital Insurance Fund, National Social Security Fund and Kenya Revenue Authority details.

The card, however, will not hold passport or driving licence details, as these will be separate documents given they are required outside the country.

“Whether you are going to hospital, to school or travelling abroad, it is just that one DID that you will need,” said Gatabaki.

And, for instance, if a police officer stops a motorist and asks for a driving licence and he or she did not carry it, the officer can tell if the motorist is licensed to drive just by scanning their DID or fingerprint.

“Think about the total number of hours people spend in queues per day, multiply this by the number of working days, and the money spent on transport ... if time is money, then there is a lot of money to be saved through this project,” said Gatabaki.

The second component of Umoja Kenya will set up an online system for the management of foreign nationals and refugee services.

The third phase will link systems across border points to strengthen security and monitor the flow of people in and out of the country.

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