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Why Huduma Namba Will Now be Optional


The Kenyan government has taken a different approach towards the issuance of digital identity cards, as ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo announced that the government will not enforce the new digital identity cards on its citizens, deviating from the directives of the previous regime.

Initially referred to as Huduma Number, the new digital identity card was meant to replace the existing identity cards, which the government deemed outdated.

However, in an effort to encourage voluntary compliance, the government now allows citizens to decide whether they want to obtain the new digital identity card or stick with the old system.

Cabinet Secretary Owalo emphasized that it is not the government’s role to force people into registering for the new digital identity card.

Instead, the decision should be left to the citizens to make according to their preferences.

A segment of Kenyans expressed reservations about the new plan, suggesting that the government could simply issue new cards with the same old identification numbers, without actually overhauling the system.

Owalo assured the public that the government is seeking virtual means to confirm individuals’ identities, giving citizens the choice to consume government services either through the digital identity or by physically visiting government offices.

Initially, the government had planned to phase out the current generation of identity cards in favor of a new one that would integrate all government-issued documents, including birth certificates, NHIF numbers, and NSSF numbers.

The previous administration’s efforts to implement this program faced numerous glitches, leading to its abandonment after significant amounts of taxpayer money had been spent.

The Kenya Kwanza government revived the plans in early 2023, although no clear guidelines have been provided regarding the rollout date for the exercise.

As of now, the ministry has not clarified whether the data collected during the previous mass registration exercise will be utilized for processing the new digital identity cards.

Cabinet Secretary Owalo emphasized that the new system must be capable of assigning unique personal identification numbers at birth to all individuals born in Kenya, signaling a commitment to modernize the country’s civil registration and vital statistics system to align with the demands of the digital era.

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