Uhuru unveils development and security blueprint, allays fears over Huduma Namba

President Uhuru Kenyatta chairs a Cabinet meeting at the Camp Bravo detachment at the KWS Law Enforcement Academy in Manyani, Taita Taveta County on October 16, 2020. 

Photo credit: PSCU

What you need to know:

  • President Kenyatta noted that data generation is tied to its ownership, and that this will remain one of his key legacy projects.
  •   President Kenyatta revisited his praise for the military and other national security agencies in executing his agenda, saying they had demonstrated their excellence.

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday for the first time addressed the ownership of Huduma Namba data as well as 2022 election rigging claims, saying the service is wholly owned by Kenya and had no foreign component.

President Kenyatta said the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), popularly known as Huduma Namba, was developed jointly by a team of young Kenyans that he revealed had been camping at various State facilities, and were in the last few days gathered at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Law Enforcement Academy in Manyani, Taita Taveta County, where he joined them to see the various projects.

"This is Kenya's best kept secret and asset, and it has been sitting in this room. This is just the beginning. The innovations we have here are not just for the security sector. They will also have commercial value. We will help them make world-class companies to be used by Kenyans and the world, and create the next Steve Jobs and Bill Gates," President Kenyatta told the 500 young Kenyans drawn from various government agencies, universities and colleges at the KWS facility.

The project at Camp Manyani is in many ways a metaphor for President Kenyatta’s last days at the helm. It is big, ostentatious, dreamy, and highly secretive. As he hurtles towards the end of his second term in office, the President appears keen on leaving behind a legacy of innovation, which is closely tied to the digital dream wave he rode to power almost 10 years ago.

Cybersecurity

Here, tucked in a corner of the Tsavo, hidden from public glare and kept a secret for years, is the government’s answer to a myriad of problems facing its citizens, from cybersecurity, crime, revenue collection gateways and social media communication to geospatial mapping, and resource consolidation and even small arms manufacturing.

It, however, faces numerous challenges, key among them the management and security of the loads of data it will generate. There are also ethical Big Brother considerations, given the risk the consolidation of individual, private data poses to citizens should that data land in the hands of rogue administrators, or even a rogue state in the future .

 President Kenyatta noted that data generation is tied to its ownership, and that this will remain one of his key legacy projects. His sentiments were echoed by ICT minister Joe Mucheru, who said the country had for a decades been flying blind since it did not know what resources it had, where.

While he had planned to reveal the programme next year, President Kenyatta said, claims by politicians questioning the ownership and integrity of the Huduma Namba project pushed him to push the event forward.

"After watching and listening to certain individuals speaking out of total ignorance, including members of the media, talking about Germans and Huduma Namba, and how contracts were signed with international agencies, I said, okay, let me take you to the Germans," he said sarcastically, referring to the Kenyan group that he said were responsible for the massive project.

President Kenyatta also revealed that the team, which had representatives from the National Intelligence Services, the military, mining, the meteorological department, and all other government agencies" had worked to deliver the 2019 Census in record time.

"These government agencies and these young people helped us deliver census in record time and we now have countries coming to ask how they did it," the President said.

Last month, in a function attended by the DP, about 30 Tangatanga MPs said they no longer trusted the Huduma Namba process, alleging that it was being managed by a foreign firm through NIS to manipulate the 2022 election to Dr Ruto's disadvantage.

“We gather they have brought in foreigners to help them steal our money and rig the elections,” Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika claimed.

Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa added, “If it is about public procurement, you have no business taking the procurement to the National Intelligence Service.

“If it is about public registration, take it through the legal process of procurement and stop hiding behind the NIS.”

  President Kenyatta revisited his praise for the military and other national security agencies in executing his agenda, saying they had demonstrated their excellence.

Digitisation programme

During the tour of the KWS facility in Taita Taveta County, President Kenyatta was shown a massive national security digitisation programme which will have implications on State data gathering management.

These include the digitisation of the Occurrence Book in police stations, an app to help collect fines in petty offences, as well as TaifaPay, a national revenue payment system that excited President Kenyatta with its government-owned description, different from existing payment platforms which has raised issues of share of revenue.

Others are the geospatial data project, a massive exercise that has seen new maps of Kenya created for the first time since 1970.

There were talks that the Cabinet retreat in Manyani was to discuss the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report ahead of a meeting with the parliamentary leadership at State House today, claims President Kenyatta laughed off.

“I knew if we told you that you are coming to see this amazing work and there was no politics, some of you will not have come,” he joked.