Digital identity a good idea but let plan work

The digital national identity card that is about to be rolled out is a good idea. However, there is an apparent public apathy and scepticism towards the initiative following the flop of another registration, the Huduma Namba, which cost the country a tidy sum.

Not many people are keen to turn up again and queue for long hours and then wait in vain for the delivery of the ID touted as a consolidation of the various identification elements.

President William Ruto has assured fellow Kenyans that the proposed digital IDs are what they and the country really need.

Digital identity will help to improve the delivery of basic public services. And the government is prepared to allocate substantial resources for the transition to the third-generation smart ID.

It will enable the consolidation of information into a comprehensive registry that will also come in handy for accurate records for proper planning.

The new system will assign unique personal identification numbers to Kenyans at birth. Digital identity is expected to be provided to all Kenyans by next February so that they can easily access government services.

That means the Sh10 billion spent on Huduma Namba by last December will have to be forgotten as more funds are provided for the new one. Only about 7.3 million cards had been issued, which is small, considering that the national population is 50 million.

However, the Huduma Namba setback should provide crucial lessons. One is the need for training and sensitisation of the public but more important is the protection of personal data privacy. The single digital identification number in use in a number of countries, like Belgium and India, is very effective.

The new identification should help to streamline revenue collection, social security, universal health coverage and voter registration. The potential gains clearly outweigh any teething problems. Capturing accurate particulars of the citizens is what the government needs to ease planning.