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Starting in November 2023, first-time ID applicants in Kenya will be provided with the Maisha Card, marking the introduction of digital registration for individuals in the country.

According to local reports, the pilot program will also see applicants who require replacements for defaced or lost cards receiving the new Maisha Card. The card comes with enhanced security features as the government assesses the country’s readiness for a comprehensive rollout of digital IDs.

To bolster security and reduce the risk of forgery, the Maisha Card will incorporate a microprocessor electronic chip with encrypted data. Additionally, it will include features that enable the creation of a virtual ID, known as Maisha Digital ID, for individuals with smartphones.

“All Kenyans turning 18 years, in whichever part of Kenya, will be issued with a Maisha Card on a pilot basis. This way, we will establish whether there are any errors or issues before we do the launch,” Immigration and Citizen Services PS, Prof Julius Bitok, said.

Following a briefing session with members of the Civil Society on digital ID, the Permanent Secretary (PS) stated that the government anticipates valuable feedback to determine the requirements for a successful mass replacement of the current IDs.

The PS said the government is determined to prevent encountering challenges similar to those faced during the unsuccessful introduction of Huduma Namba. The Huduma Namba, which was based on blockchain, was the idea of a single identity number to harmonize all necessary citizen registrations, including health and pension schemes.

The representatives from Civil Society who submitted a memorandum outlining their concerns about digital ID to the PS urged the government to address worries related to data security and protection, as well as ensure genuine public participation and inclusion of marginalized communities.

“Whereas we are happy with the open-door policy that the government has adopted in engaging stakeholders on digital ID, there are areas around data privacy, inclusion of all voices and unfair vetting that needs to be addressed,” said Amnesty International (Kenya) Executive Director, Irungu Houghton.

The pilot comes after Kenya suspended the WorldCoin protocol, which is intended to be the world’s largest identity and financial public network, open to everyone regardless of their country, background, or economic status.

The Maisha Card will incorporate a distinct personal identifier (UPI) number, known as Maisha Namba, which will serve as the primary and enduring registration and identification reference for cardholders.

Newborns will also receive a Maisha Namba to be used in their birth certificates and for subsequent registration in government services, including school enrollment and healthcare. This same number will transition to their Maisha Card number when they reach the age of 18.

See also

Maisha Card and Maisha Digital ID will be consolidated into a population register to be known as Maisha Integrated Database. This will negate vetting for issuance of Identity Cards, the official said.

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