Biometric registration of Kenyans starts in 15 counties

Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho. He announced the start of the National Integrated Identity Management System pilot project. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • The government intends to end the burden citizens had to endure of carrying crucial documents such as ID, KRA pin, driving licence, among others.
  • Single identification numbers have been used in the West to help governments plan; disburse benefits such as healthcare and housing.
  • The countrywide mass registration will begin on March 15 after data from the pilot is analysed, logistics addressed and last minute teething problems ironed out.

The government this morning begins testing a Sh6 billion plan to register nearly 50 million Kenyans for a digital database.

Until Friday, residents of 40 sub-locations in 15 counties picked for the pilot experiment of the National Integrated Identity Management System (Niims) — dubbed Huduma Namba — will have their data captured in biometric kits.

Some of the counties in the pilot project include Kisii, Kisumu, Wajir Nairobi, Uasin Gishu, Kajiado, Baringo, Marsabit, Embu, Makueni, Busia, Nyandarua, Kiambu, Kilifi and Tana River,

Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho says 31,500 kits have been distributed in readiness for the mass rollout covering the country’s 8,500 sub-locations next month.

Controversy hit the procurement of the biometric kits in July last year when it emerged that three companies were invited to bid instead of going through competitively.


Questions were raised on why the Sh3 billion tender was conducted through desk research.

The tender was eventually awarded to Idemia, a merger of Oberthur Technologies (OT) and Safran Identity & Security (Morpho), which supplied the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission with the Sh3.8 billion Kiems gadgets used to identify voters during the August 8, 2017 General Election.

The other companies identified were Copernic of France and Credence ID of the United States.

Assistant chiefs have the responsibility of mobilising locals and helping get the information the government hopes will reduce the burden of a citizen carrying a national identity card, Kenya Revenue Authority personal identification number, driving licence, passport, NHIF and NSSF cards and other documents.

“Huduma Namba consolidates all these to arrive at the single source of truth regarding a Kenyan. It is a useful tool for the government to use in planning, social services and project resource allocation,” Dr Kibicho told the Nation ahead of the rollout.

“No other document gives the government the ability to serve its people that way.”


On fears of Niims getting DNA samples of Kenyans, Dr Kibicho said no new data would be collected.

“The government will not collect any DNA material. Kenya does not have a bank big enough to store the DNA information of 50 million people,” the Principal Secretary said.

After the registration, which targets everyone above six years old, the data will be sent for verification before cards are issued.

It means the existing identification documents will remain in force for a while. A mass rollout of the programme begins on March 15 until the end of April.

“Do not throw away your ID card or driver’s licence yet,” he said.

Apart from biodata — name, parents, nationality, education, disability and employment status — Niims will capture a person’s fingerprints and photograph.

No one can be registered in absentia. At least, one current identification document would be required for the registration.


Single identification numbers have been used in the West to help governments plan; disburse benefits such as welfare, healthcare, housing and agriculture.

The government hopes Huduma Namba will play a similar role in channelling resources to the elderly, school children, the disabled, members of the proposed housing fund, small and medium enterprises and farmers.

It also hopes the number would aid in combating fraud. It could also help check the unwanted entry into the country by foreigners in the wake of terrorist threats and attacks.

Below are excerpts of the interview with Dr Karanja on the project:

What is unique about this number?

Kenyans are required to carry several documents like the national identity card, KRA personal identification number, driving licence, passport and many others.

All these documents are recorded in different databases so Huduma Namba consolidates the information to arrive at the ‘single source of truth’ regarding a Kenyan.

There is no new data the government is looking for. The only difference is that it is digital and biometric.

Huduma Namba is a useful tool for the government to use in national planning, social services, project resource allocation and even project infrastructure.

No other document gives the government the ability to serve its people that way.

Does it mean we can throw away our IDs? What will be their role?

Do not throw away your identity cards or driving licences. After the new registration, this data has to go for verification before you are issued with any sort of card or document.

This is to make sure that the information submitted tallies with what is already recorded.

Verification will take time and perhaps the earliest we can get a Huduma Namba document or card is during the issuing of the third generation ID cards.

Once we are done, the Huduma Namba will be the only identification document you will need.

Without it, you will not access any government services that require documentation, just as you cannot do so without a national ID card.

Huduma Number is expected to capture biometric and other information data from birth to death. At what point will it be issued and how will one update the card?

The registration is for Kenyans aged six and above. The countrywide mass registration begins on March 15 after data from the pilot is analysed, logistics sorted out and last minute teething problems dealt with.

The mass registration will run for 45 days.

After the registration, the gadgets will be left with the chiefs to continue registering births, deaths, marriages, and any other updates. There will be a process for the updates.

Foreigners in Kenya are also supposed to get a digital number. Does it apply to those on short stay visas? If yes, would it be issued at point of entry or secured in advance?

Short term visitors or tourists are not expected to acquire a Huduma Namba.

The only non-citizens required to register are those with the status of workers, students and asylum seekers.

What infrastructure will be used in the pilot and has it been rolled out? Which parts of the country are involved in the pilot? How long will the trial run, what will it cost?

We have procured 31,500 biometric kits. The pilot phase of registration starts on February 18 to 22 in 15 counties.

The counties were chosen because of their differences in terrain, demographics and other factors.

The initial registration will give the government a varied picture to enable proper preparation for the mass registration.

Assistant chiefs have been mobilised and trained on the use of the biometric kits.

The countrywide mass registration will begin on March 15 after data from the pilot is analysed, logistics addressed and last minute teething problems ironed out.

Is there any link between this and the census?

The connection to the census is coincidental because of the timing. Huduma Namba was conceptualised in 2016 and has nothing to do with the census.

The national census involves the physical counting of people in a household and requests basic data.

The Huduma Namba does not require you to be at the same place with your family while you register. You do not need to go to your village or your county.

What will it cost me to register for Huduma Namba?

This is a free government service. The total cost of the exercise is between Sh5 billion and Sh6 billion.

The Huduma Namba will make the lives of Kenyans easy. Once we capture your information digitally, you will never again have to queue to submit new data, unless you choose to.

In the same way that your driver’s licence or national ID have the original photo taken as a teenager, so too shall the Huduma Namba.

Why were new kits bought instead of using the IEBC ones?

The government would love to use the IEBC kits and save money but this is not possible.

Had we borrowed the IEBC kits, we would have to return them at some point, meaning the crucial registration processes would grind to a halt.

Is Huduma Namba anchored in law?

Laws have been put in place to ensure no litigation hinders the rollout of this programme.

The Registration of Persons Act was amended in the National Assembly to include digital biometric and data capture.

A standalone Huduma Namba Bill is in Parliament and it includes permission to capture data as well as makes provisions for the protection of that information.


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