The High Court will on Monday rule on whether to suspend the implementation of a digital platform that seeks to digitise and centralise records of vital life events of citizens and foreigners in Kenya.
A three-judge bench comprising Justices Weldon Korir, Pauline Nyamweya and Mumbi Ngugi on Friday presided over the hearing of a case challenging the installation and operationalisation of the National Integrated Identity Management System (Niims).
Parties in the dispute presented their arguments on whether or not the government should be barred from forging ahead with its plans on the new registration system also known as Huduma Namba. The court’s ruling is set to come just a day before Niims is rolled out on Tuesday April 2.
The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), Nubian Rights Forum, and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNHCR) filed different cases challenging the said platform but they were all consolidated into one.
They have sued the Attorney-General, the Cabinet Secretaries for Interior as well as Information Communication Technology, the director of national registration and the Speaker of the National Assembly. Whilst digitisation of records can improve efficiencies in registration and increase data quality while lowering cost of data management, the lobbies claimed that the country does not have legislation or policy on data protection.
According to the lobbies, Niims would breach the right to privacy as information relating to family or private affairs may be required to be revealed.
They further alleged that the legislation of Niims also does not provide for a transition mechanism from the current regime hence exposing taxpayers to unfair inconveniences and would result to coercion and blackmail for personal information in exchange for constitutional guaranteed rights.
The lobbies argued that there are several questions pending regarding the amendments made to the law that saw the creation of Niims and that there are no clear provisions indicating how the process of data collection shall be done.
The lobbies claimed that the new data collection and registration platform will only further discriminate communities in marginalised areas.
They have claimed that there is already an existing parallel mechanism on registration called the Integrated Population Registration System.
But the government insisted that Niims would also aid in adopting technology in line with current global trends. Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho explained that the government has no intention to know the place of residence of each Kenyan since that information has always been confined to names of villages or urban estates due to limited technology available in the past.