Starting from October 2, 2023, a groundbreaking shift in the registration of individuals in Kenya will officially start, with the introduction of ‘Maisha Namba,’ which will be allocated to every newborn in the country.
Maisha Namba, serving as a Unique Personal Identifier (UPI), will be assigned to each Kenyan citizen upon registration, typically at the time of birth.
This number will serve as a lifelong personal identity, persisting from birth to death. It essentially replaces the traditional birth certificate number and can also be generated digitally by authorized personnel responsible for issuing birth certificates. Officers will undergo training to ensure proficient utilization of digital registration technologies.
Simultaneously, Kenyan citizens reaching the age of 18 will be among the first recipients of a 3rd Generation electronic identity card, referred to as the ‘Maisha Card.’
These individuals, along with holders of the 2nd generation identity cards, will also have the option to obtain a digital identity card to complement the electronic version.
Julius Bitok, the Principal Secretary of the State Department for Immigration and Citizen Services, has explained that this initiative is a response to the evolving registration landscape, which has remained largely unchanged for approximately 30 years. It necessitates an upgrade to align with global standards and cater to the rapidly expanding digital economy.
Prof Bitok says the government is leveraging on technology to enable Kenyan citizens to acquire technologically advanced, safe and secure identification documents.
“This will transform how Kenyans are securely registered, identified, and authenticated and how they do business, through digital registration technologies. We are therefore in the process of transitioning from a fairly manual processing of registration documents to a digital identity system,” Amb Bitok said.
As a result, the public will now have the opportunity to enroll through a newly developed application, which will grant them access to a range of government services on the E-Citizen platform, as well as facilitate travel and business transactions.
The Government will also introduce a master database (MDB) that will serve as a centralized repository for all registration data collected by various registration agencies. These agencies encompass Civil Registration, responsible for issuing birth and death certificates, the National Registration Bureau, in charge of identity cards, and Immigration and Refugee Services.
To safeguard citizen data in accordance with legal provisions, the State Department has formulated a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) and submitted it to the Office of the Data Commissioner. This document will undergo ongoing updates to address emerging risks as they occur.
The department has been actively involving various stakeholders in a series of awareness and public engagement sessions. These include representatives from civil society organizations, religious leaders, private sector entities, and development partners. This ongoing process will continue even after the official launch of the initiative.
The State Department has been developing a new digital registration system that encompasses four key components: Maisha Namba, Maisha Card, Digital Identity, and a National Master Registration database. President William Ruto is set to officially launch these four digital registration solutions on Monday, October 2, 2023.