Digital Identity
2020

Digital Identity

Introduction.

The Parliament of Kenya pursuant to an Omnibus Bill introduced Amendments to the Registration of Persons Act CAP 107 via Statute Law (Misc. Amendment) Act No. 18 of 2018. This was later forwarded to the president and it was then assented to on the 31st day of December 2018.

On the 18th day of January 2019, the Amendments of sections 3, 5 and 9 of the Registration of Persons Act CAP 107 came into force. 

The Government of Kenya introduced the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) which came to be popularly known as Huduma Namba in January 2019. NIIMS was to put in place a new centralized and digital population register as a “single source of truth,” containing personal data including biometrics on all citizens and foreigners in Kenya.

 

Impact analysis.

After the decision by the government to introduce the NIIMS system, Civil society organizations working on matters of citizenship, legal identity, human rights, and data protection came together to file constitutional petitions contesting the rollout of Huduma Namba.

 

Consolidated Petitions No. 56, 58 and 59 of 2019. 

Summary of Facts.

On the 14th and 18th of February 2019 respectively, Nubian Rights Forum, KHRC, and KNCHR filed Constitutional Petitions against seven (7) respondents, including the AG, CS Ministry of Interior, amongst others stating various procedural and substantive issues which include:

  • Constitutionality of the legislative procedure;
  • No effective public participation;
  • Right to Privacy: No limits on the scope of data that can be captured (DNA and GPS data); 
  • No informational privacy framework;
  • Equality and Discrimination: NIIMS likely to aggravate the discriminatory registration and identity documentation practices against the Nubian community in Kenya.  

 

In April 2019, the High Court issued conservatory orders that put important restrictions on the government while they carried out the Huduma Namba enrollment exercise. As per the conservatory orders issued by the court, the government was restricted from:

  • Making Huduma Namba registration mandatory; 
  • Linking Huduma Namba to public services;
  • Collecting DNA or GPS;
  • Setting any deadline for registration and; 
  • Sharing the data collected with third parties.

 

On the 30th day of January 2020, the High Court delivered a judgment permitting NIIMS subject to the prior enactment of a comprehensive and appropriate regulatory framework. Therefore, in allowing NIIMS the court found that the implementation should not continue without further legislation to guarantee the security of biometric data and to ensure the system is not exclusionary. 

 

Conclusion.

Given that Digital identity is indeed the future, there is a need for proper and adequate legislation to address data security and prevent the risk of exclusion not just for Nubians but also for those without proper biometrics. We shall continue to follow the issue closely and It is essential that the government meaningfully addresses the issues raised by the Court, and that the solutions presented genuinely address the Court’s concerns.

Do not hesitate to contact us for any further assistance and clarification on the matter.

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