Digital ID: Government switches from Huduma to Maisha Number at a cost of Sh1 billion

Immigration Principal Secretary Julius Bitok (center) addresses the media at Serena Hotel, Nairobi on September 12, 2023.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

The failed Huduma Namba project launched by the Jubilee government of Uhuru Kenyatta at a cost of Sh10 billion will now be replaced by a digital identity database known as Maisha Number.

This is according to the sub-committee of the National Digital Identity Technical Committee that approved President William Ruto's directive to implement the National Digital Identity in the country.

The team, which met in Nairobi on Tuesday and was led by Principal Secretary for Immigration and Citizenship Julius Bitok, said processing of the national digital identity cards will begin in the next twenty days.

Even as the Kenya Kwanza administration begins processing the Maisha Number cards, a process not unfamiliar to Kenyans after the failed Huduma Namba, the technical team has assured that this will not be a failure.

Bitok said the Kenya Kwanza government has now switched from the Huduma Namba to the Maisha Number, a process that will cost Sh1 billion.

"I think we've moved from the Huduma Namba to what we call the Maisha Number.

"The new number is a UPI and integrates all the databases from all the existing databases from civil registration and national registration," PS Bitok said.

According to the Immigration PS, the digital IDs will have four components, including a Unique Personal Identify (UPI) called the Maisha Number, the Maisha Card which will be a third generation ID, the digital ID and the final component will be the National Master Population Register.

The Maisha Card will be a new version of the current ID, while the digital ID will be an option to have the ID on the phone instead of carrying the physical ID.

The National Master Population Register will capture the names of all people born in Kenya, those turning 18, those who have migrated to other countries and refugees living in the country.

The PS said the new version of the ID will be well integrated to the extent that when someone applies for a passport, the system will be able to confirm that the applicant has a birth certificate and ID, ensuring a seamless workflow.

"When someone is given this number at birth, it's the same number that will be their school identification number, their university identification number, it will be their ID number when they turn 18, it will be their KRA pin number and their lifetime number... it's a lifetime number from birth to death.

"This time, Kenyans will not be asked to stand in line when submitting their details to the government, as was the case with Huduma Namba registration, but their details will be extracted from government databases.

Unlike the Huduma card, the third generation IDs will have a machine readable zone (MRZ) that will contain details of the holder's personal information.

The project will take a long time to be fully implemented, but those who turn 18 will be issued with the third-generation IDs.

"We are looking at the second generation ID, we are now moving to the third generation ID cards which are called Maisha Cards".