Kenya faces identification crisis, says ICT Principal Secretary

Saturday, October 5th, 2019 00:00 |
Huduma namba. Photo/Courtesy

ICT Principal Secretary Jerome Ochieng Friday told a Nairobi court  there is an identification crisis in the country.

Ochieng, who was being cross-examined in a case filed by Nubian Rights Forum and Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) challenging the Huduma Namba exercise, said the government has, however, been able to function despite the challenges.

He said the crisis started in 1989 and the government was aware of the importance to ensure the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS)— popularly known as Huduma Namba — was credible.

He said the government was in a rush to have Huduma Namba and if it is delayed, the system would collapse anytime.

When asked by lawyer Waikwa Wanyoike, representing KHRC, whether the government had time to consider alternatives, the PS  said there was no time  and the country’s fate depends on Huduma Namba.

He told a three-judge Bench that a credible system would take rights of Kenyan citizens and non-citizens seriously.

Justices Pauline Nyamweya, Mumbi Ngugi and Weldon Korir heard that there was no law backing the data collection exercise.

“We do not have a NIIMS law, but the exercise is based on a couple of other Acts,” said the PS.

Ochieng said it would only be necessary to address the issue of personal data if there was need to provide information on when personal data might be at risk but in the case it was not addressed as there was no risk.

When asked by the lawyer whether NIIMS mets set standards, the PS said  the State had not provided in the court any results from any of the tests they might have performed on the systems.

On Wednesday, Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho defended the Huduma Namba exercise, saying it will ensure adequate planning and improve service delivery.

He dispelled claims that the registration discriminated against some communities. 

“The claim that Huduma Namba was meant to lock Nubians out is unfounded,” he said.

Kibicho said the State did not intend to collect DNA from the beginning and that its intention was to have a unique identifier through biometric capture.

"If we use fingerprints or earlobes for biometrics, not all Kenyans have fingers or earlobes,” he told the court.

However, the petitioners maintained that there was no assurance that NIIMS was hack-proof.

They argued that both the National Assembly and the Executive did not take any input from Kenyans and did not explain how the collected digital data would be secured.

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