Kenya on Tuesday joined the league of developed countries like the US, Europe, the United Arabs Emirates, India and Australia when it launched the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS).
President Uhuru Kenyatta led the exercise by signing for his own Huduma Namba and flagging off distribution of NIIMS registration kits to all the 47 counties.
He rolled out the project at Masii Public Grounds in Machakos County while opposition leaders Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula oversaw the exercise in Mombasa, Murang’a and Kajiado in a historic demonstration of national unity and common purpose.
NIIMs, also dubbed Huduma Namba, will use integrated data systems to manage citizens’ information.
The project seeks to identify all Kenyan residents through a unique primary identifier.
Opposition leaders trooped to three other launch sites to witness the rollout of the 45-day registration drive, which they hailed as an important exercise.
President Kenyatta said the exercise would not only transform civil registration and data management in the country but also tame corruption and fast-track implementation of the Big Four development agenda.
“Huduma Namba will reduce delays and corruption in the delivery of services such as cash transfers for elderly persons and vulnerable children, issuance of passports and border control,” he said.
He added: “NIIMS will facilitate faster and more effective implementation of the Big Four agenda.”
The President said the registration exercise would verify the actual number of government employees including civil servants.
He said an audit of the Kenya Police Service undertaken last year unearthed about 5,000 ghost officers who were receiving a monthly salary totalling Sh148 million.
President Kenyatta said NIIMS aims to establish and maintain a master digital national population register that will serve as the only source of identification for everybody resident in Kenya.
“It will integrate personal and functional data that is scattered in many government agencies into one single identity,” said the President, adding that the number will be used at all stages of one’s life from birth to death.
NIIMS is used to save biometric (fingerprints and facials), demographic and physical details of Kenyans and registered foreigners, an exercise that also aims at enhancing national security.
The Huduma Namba will not invalidate other national registration processes like signing up for identity cards, National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), National Social Security Fund (NSSF), birth and death certificates or the personal identification number. Instead, it will harmonise them.
NIIMS will assist in issuing persons residing in Kenya with a primary identifier that will consolidate the other registration numbers in one digital wallet. The other numbers will become secondary identifiers.
The Huduma Namba is aimed at enhancing the speed and efficiency of service delivery to residents of Kenya.
Calling on Kenyans to take advantage of the next 45 days to register, President Kenyatta enumerated the reasons the government is undertaking the exercise.
"The need for accurate data as a key enabler for national planning, issuance of birth and death certificates and associated rights of nationality, schooling, passport and property ownership are all valid reasons for the registration," said the President.
He said biometric identification and registration of farmers will facilitate fairer allocation of subsidised farm inputs, including seeds and fertilisers.
“It will also improve accountability and transparency in the management of NSSF and inform planning, investment and allocation of affordable housing units,” the President said.
He said the exercise would also facilitate and monitor capitation in schools, adding that Kenyans will no longer be required to carry multiple IDs, and pensioners and widows will receive their dues with ease.
Besides reducing transaction costs for Kenyans, he said, the new exercise will significantly reduce cases of identity theft and make financial and property transactions more secure.
President Kenyatta said a bill is being drafted to address concerns raised by Kenyans about security of the NIIMS data.
“Once passed by Parliament, the law will give you the right to obtain a copy of particulars of your personal data in the NIIMS database, restrict data sharing, and ensure security of the data against unauthorised access,” he said.
President Kenyatta criticised some church leaders for spreading lies and misleading Kenyans about the intention of the activity. “Let us not use privileged positions to spread lies about the Huduma Namba. It has nothing to do with revealing your mpango wa kando (clandestine lover) child’s identity.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, under whose docket the initiative is being coordinated, assured the President of precision and efficiency in the registration exercise.
He also promised to update the President on a daily basis about the status of the exercise.
In the registration process, Kenyans will have their data captured in 31,500 biometric kits spread in 8,500 sub-locations countrywide.
Assistant chiefs have the responsibility of mobilising locals and helping get the information the government hopes will reduce the burden of citizens carrying a national ID, KRA pin, passport, NHIF or NSSF cards.
The President also vowed to protect the initiative, accusing some religious leaders and other unnamed people of misleading the public against it.
“The level of stupidity in Kenya is too much. Kenyans should not wait for the last day, come out and register immediately in centres nearest to you,” he said.
He also directed that chiefs’ uniforms be tailored at a textile firm that was recently opened in Kitui County.
Mr Odinga said NIIMS would help boost government service delivery. “If you want to cook, you have to know how many people will eat the food and that would decide the size of the food. That is what the government is doing,” he said.
The government has employed 411 youths in Mombasa to register people. The officials will be moving from door to door.
Mr Mudavadi said digital registration of all Kenyans will enable the government to have a single source of authentic information of all persons residing in Kenya, whether citizens or foreigners, thus boosting the war on corruption.
“Huduma Namba is a huge milestone for the country for it will help in the fight against graft, as every person’s details will be captured digitally,” Mr Mudavadi said.
Addressing the public at the KCB grounds in Kajiado County where he oversaw the launch of the exercise, Mr Mudavadi called on residents to turn up in large numbers for registration.
Mr Musyoka and Mr Wetang’ula stressed the need for setting up a law to protect the data bank, saying some criminals may interfere with people’s personal details to perpetuate criminal activities.
Mr Musyoka, who was the chief guest during the launch of the exercise at Ihura Stadium in Murang’a County, said the registration should be well-guarded as it will collect crucial information on Kenyans.
He underscored the importance of the system, saying it would relieve Kenyans the burden of carrying many cards and enable them access certain services.
“I laud the government for coming up with Huduma Namba as it will ease access to key services from various government agencies,” he said.
Nakuru County Commission Erastus Mbiu and County Assembly Speaker Joel Kairu were the first to register at Kaptembwa.
Ms Florence Chepng’etich, a resident of Kaptembwa estate, said she learnt about the exercise Tuesday morning when those in charge were setting up their work stations.
Nyahururu Senior Resident Magistrate Ocharo Momanyi swore in NIIMs clerical officers. The 150 officials were urged not to engage in malpractices, as they would be held personally liable for anything that would go wrong.
While addressing the media outside Nyahururu Law Courts after the swearing-in, Deputy County Commissioner Patrick Muli urged residents to turn up for the exercise in order to have easy access to government services.
In Nyandarua, County Commissioner Boaz Cherutich said that already 665 officials had been trained to register residents.
“Some 174 assistant chiefs from across the county have also been trained and will be working closely with the clerical officers for the success of the exercise,” Mr Cherutich said
Reported by Lucas Barasa, Phylis Musasia, Steve Njuguna, Ndung’u Gachane, Mohamed Ahmed, Kitavi Mutua, Kennedy Kimanthi and Benson Amadala