As the biometric registration for the National Integrated Identity Management System prominently referred to as Huduma Namba is being rolled out, there is, justifiably, growing whimpers of scepticism among Kenyans.
There has been a lot of speculation, rightfully so, because in this day and age of data piracy, people need assurances that the data collected under the Huduma Namba will not be used for nefarious activities.
These doubts have created room for the spread of misinformation and extensively contributed to the registration apathy witnessed since its commencement. It is therefore incumbent to clearly explain to Kenyans what, precisely, Huduma Namba is and what it is not.
According to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 16.9), everyone should obtain legal identity by 2030. The World Bank estimates that today, one in six people are unable to prove their identity because there is a dearth of information about their background. In this era of globalisation, integrated information is critical to identification.
With that in mind, a snippet of information from the Swedish replica of Huduma Namba gives hope for what the government must do to boost public confidence about the overriding unique value proposition of NIIMS.
A Swedish friend was carrying around an electronic card with a personal number and I got inquisitive. He first mentioned to me that the personal number is called Personnummer in Swedish.
He expounded that some of the details contained in the chip include family members, spouses, employment status, employer’s name, health insurance number, residential area and his exact location of his home.
With such information, the Swedish government, being a welfare state, is able to plan and provide social services easily. Unemployed adults can be mapped out for their monthly stipend; governments can know where more schools, hospitals, colleges and industries are needed; number of vulnerable people in need of social support and it can track down suspected criminals thus enhancing security.
Furthermore, the security of the data is strong. The first few Personnummer digits are accessed by anyone (they are merely the person’s birthdate) while the remaining digits are only accessible by a specific legally mandated government department.
FACTS AND FIGURES
Clearly, NIIMS is quite similar, from face value and intention, to the Swedish one. What is now needed is strategic dissemination of information to reach out to a majority of Kenyans to enhance public knowledge about Huduma Namba and its attendant benefits.
For efficient public service delivery, integration of data is imperative in planning, resource allocation and reducing unnecessary red tape.
For instance, it is easy for the government to know the number of employed and unemployed people in order to develop a strategy for placement and absorbing them.
Again, centralised data provides a neatly weaved base of facts and figures that can be easily harnessed to provide information about the public sector, its performances and project/services prioritisation.
This will further inform rational budgetary allocation and logical channeling of resources to productive but needful public sectors.
Another advantage of Huduma Namba is that it will cure the skewed issuance of Identity Cards, especially during the electioneering periods where devious politicians can sometimes disenfranchise voters by withholding of IDs.
This is made possible because any Kenyan above the age of six years is entitled to Huduma Namba. When they get to 18, the ball will be on their court to either register as a voter or not thus enhancing their civic rights. The Huduma Namba comes in handy in sealing the loophole of intentional voter disenfranchisement.
Kenya has been on the receiving end of organised terror attacks. This has posed an existential threat to our peace and security.
But with Huduma Namba, pieces of information about individuals can be put together. Hence, it will be quite easy to compare the biometric data given vis-a-vis suspects of organised crimes.
Ultimately, the reservations Kenyans have should be fully addressed owing to the history of our country that has been characterised by unlawful profiling.
Huduma Namba will streamline service delivery and reduce the number of documents one needs to access government services.
Mr Nyainda writes on topical issues. [email protected]