The Kenyan government will start issuing digital IDs in the form of Maisha Cards to first-time applicants and those seeking replacement cards beginning November this year. This pilot program aims to test the country’s readiness for a full rollout of digital IDs.
Maisha Card: Digital Registration for All
The Maisha Card will mark a new era in Kenya’s identity management system. As part of the pilot scheme, all Kenyans turning 18 years old across the country will be issued a Maisha Card. This approach aims to identify and rectify any potential errors or issues before a full-scale launch.
According to Immigration and Citizen Services PS Prof Julius Bitok, the government is eager to avoid the challenges that plagued previous initiatives, such as the introduction of Huduma Namba.
The National Registration Bureau processes approximately 10,000 applications for first-time IDs daily, in addition to an average of 5,000 requests for duplicate cards. The government’s decision to implement the Maisha Card system is a strategic response to the growing demand for secure and efficient identification processes.
Engaging Civil Society and Stakeholders
To ensure a successful rollout and address concerns, the government has actively engaged civil society organizations and stakeholders. Amnesty International (Kenya) Executive Director Irungu Houghton and other representatives have pledged their support for public participation and stakeholder forums on digital ID.
They’ve highlighted the importance of addressing data security, data privacy, and inclusion of marginalized communities in the process.
Enhanced Security Features
The Maisha Card will come equipped with enhanced security features to minimize the risk of forgery. It will include a microprocessor electronic chip with encrypted data. For those with smartphones, the card will also support the creation of a virtual ID known as Maisha Digital ID, further expanding its utility.
Each Maisha Card will also feature a unique personal identifier (UPI) number known as Maisha Namba. This number will serve as the primary and lifelong registration and identification reference for its holders.
Additionally, all newborns will be issued a Maisha Namba to use in their birth certificates and for subsequent registration for government services, including school enrollment and health services.
The government plans to phase out the current 2nd generation IDs in favor of the Maisha Card, with the current ID number seamlessly translating into Maisha Namba. Unlike previous initiatives, this transition will not require Kenyans to register afresh or incur additional costs.
The existing budget for registration of persons will be used to support the Maisha Namba ecosystem rollout.
A Unified Database
As part of the larger vision, the Maisha Namba, Maisha Card, and Maisha Digital ID will be consolidated into a population register known as the Maisha Integrated Database. This will eliminate the need for vetting during the issuance of Identity Cards, promoting inclusivity for marginalized communities.
Kenya’s Maisha Card represents a transformative leap forward in the country’s identification system. With enhanced security, convenience, and engagement with civil society, this initiative is set to make the process of obtaining and using digital IDs more efficient and secure.