Nairiobi — Civil Society Organizations have advised the government to take its time implementing the digital Unique Personal Identifier (UPI) to prevent repeating the errors committed during the Huduma Namba project’s deployment.
In a statement released on Friday, the CSOs led by the Kibra-based Nubian Rights Forum urged the government to first consult the general people, and ensure they put in place robust technological, policy, and legal frameworks to prevent any long-term issues that such a system would cause.
“We call on the government to slow down and not rush to introduce the new digital identity system (UPI). Having been through a similar but largely flawed and poorly rolled out process with the Huduma Namba, we reiterate that for the implementation of the digital identity system in Kenya to be inclusive and human rights centered,” read the statement.
“It is imperative that the government incorporates past learnings in a transparent manner and implements court orders arising from Huduma Namba litigation,” the CSOs cautioned.
“The questions still remain; will these digital identity systems be inclusive or merely a replication of the mistakes made in the implementation of the Huduma Namba project.”
Additionally, they noted that there hasn’t been sufficient public participation and that there will be ambiguity around data privacy due to the lack of openness surrounding the legal foundation of the UPI initiative.
They noted that the adoption of the UPI could exacerbate disparities for vulnerable communities who already lack access to birth certificates and identification cards due to accessibility issues, high costs, and corruption, thereby excluding them from the UPI’s prospects.
The groups warned of further inequalities for minority and historically marginalized communities.
“Double registered persons (Kenyans whose biometrics are in the refugee database) already struggle with systemic discrimination in obtaining registration and nationality documents,” they added.
The CSOs urged the government to consider corrective measures to ensure an inclusive process.
“The introduction of UPI could also increase inequities for vulnerable communities who do not have access to birth certificates and IDs due to discrimination, distance, cost, corruption, and other barriers and they may be further excluded from the opportunities provided by UPI.”
The organizations also urged the government to guarantee that registration facilities are easily accessible and that there are no discriminatory practices.
President William Ruto’s administration said UPI will identify citizens’ right from birth to death under a single identifier for all government records.
Speaking in Eldoret during a familiarization tour on Monday, Principal Secretary State Department for Immigration and Citizen Services ambassador Julius Bitok said that the government has put in place strategies for UPI rollout beginning July 1.
The UPI number will be used to identify the child in school, as an ID number once they attain the age of 18, as well as accessing KRA, NSSF and other government services throughout one’s lifetime..
“We want our people to be given UPI, it will be one number that a child will be given to be used as school registration number from primary to university. It will be used as ID number, NSSF number and on everything up to death certificate number,” he said.
Bitok emphasized that UPI will enable the government to establish digital identity for all citizens and will also enable Kenyans access government services through the E-Citizen digital platform.