Kenya Unveils Ambitious Plans for Digital ID and Biometric Passports

Kenya Unveils Ambitious Plans for Digital ID and Biometric Passports
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Kenya is making significant strides in its digital transformation journey, with the introduction of the new generation Maisha Namba digital ID and plans to expedite the issuance of biometric passports.

Julius Bitok, the Principal Secretary for Immigration and Citizen Services, revealed that already thirteen million Kenyans have obtained the Maisha Namba digital ID, with a target to reach 32 million issuances within the next two years. Speaking at a conference organized by the Network of Data Protection Associations (NADPA) in Nairobi, Bitok emphasized the government’s commitment to accelerating its digital agenda.

The announcement coincides with the Interior Secretary’s declaration that biometric passports will now be processed within just one week, effective August 1. This streamlined process aims to alleviate the backlog of ID and passport issuances in the country.

While the launch of the Maisha Namba digital ID initially faced challenges, including a court-ordered halt, Bitok assured that the system is now operational and poised to enhance service delivery. The digital ID, one component of Kenya’s digital identity ecosystem, eliminates the need for redundant data submissions and serves as the primary form of identification from birth.

Bitok underscored the government’s focus on data protection and inclusivity, highlighting efforts to safeguard citizen data on the eCitizen platform and ensure marginalized groups are not excluded from the digital ID scheme.

In addition to facilitating citizen services, the eCitizen platform is expected to boost government revenue, with projections estimating daily earnings of up to one billion Kenyan shillings by December. As more citizens obtain digital IDs, access to the eCitizen portal becomes a requirement, driving revenue from digital government services.

However, concerns have been raised by rights groups regarding the new ID issuance guidelines, urging the government to address potential discriminatory practices. Despite recent improvements, some requirements in the new rules may still pose barriers to individuals who have faced identity crises in the past.

In a bid to streamline passport issuance, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki announced plans to reduce processing times to seven days starting August 1, with further reductions to three days from September 1. These changes aim to enhance efficiency and address longstanding backlogs within the Immigration Department, following investments in passport printing equipment and supply chain improvements.

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