Is Huduma Namba for good or bad?

Members of KHRC during a media brief at their offices in Nairobi

Data was said to be the new oil that, bad as it sounds, can be used and/ or misused in equal measure with evident breaches reported globally every single day.

In Kenya for example, any citizen holders of Identity Cards (IDs) are expected to give out personal data including names as is on the IDs, dates and places of birth, even phone numbers to get access into public or even private facilities like hotels, data which they (Kenyans) don’t get to know how securely are kept or shared.

It’s no wonder we get nagging texts from electronic fraudsters on how to borrow loans and such when truth is, such are malicious deliberate ploys to rob from an already overburdened Kenyan.

It is against this data breaches backdrop, that the Kenya Human Rights Commission has come out and aloud to oppose the Huduma Namba registration project recently launched by the head of state in Kenya, citing lack of proper and well laid framework for data protection and what has in the recent past become a furore in the country with as many people opposing it as those accepting it.

The Government of Kenya, GoK recently rolled out the National Intergrated Identity Management (NIIMS) that was meant to be a single source of a citizen’s data for ease of access to such information when offering government services and to be a pre-requisite for accessing government services.

The government had initially planed to have the GPS and DNA data captured as well, but the court ruled against that, stating that such were conservatory orders. The Kenya Human Rights Commission, did on April 4, during a press briefing, ask Kenyans citizens not to be forced or coerced into registering for the Huduma Namba, despite President Kenyatta having officially been quoted on national TV saying the process would mandatory for every single citizen.

The Huduma Namba and the NIIMS registration process is rightfully facing opposition according to one Linda Bonyo, CEO and Co-Founder Lawyers Hub Kenya. She says, “Good as the NIIMS is intended, it gives out too much of our (citizens’) data to the government and we all know that the government has failed to protect our data in the past.”

Bonyo’s is a concern of data leakages and breaches that she mentions can escalate to even international research being done by the data of unsuspecting citizens. She says that the government hitherto lacks a well laid Data protection Framework what makes Kenyans, her included unable to trust the intentions of the data collection activity.

She further notes that centralization of data is problematic and needs a well thought through plan, what she says lacks in the current Huduma Namba process as it is. Linda reminds me of Kisumu, a major town in Kenya where the registration process has to stall following unclear circumstances associated with poor facilitation from the GoK representatives.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission noted that it receives worrying reports about threats to withhold salaries and other benefits to members of the public who exercise their legal rights to boycott the exercise. This is an unacceptable violation of the law and an open contempt of court orders issued on April 1.

Kenyans are opposed to this process because of the human rights aspect; access to private data and Further Exclusion, where marginalized communities like the Nubians of Kenya will feel completely misplaced having access to government facilities and services. They also feel it is not a fair play ground as it leaves others will statelessness.

Speaking during the KHRC press brief, KHRC Program Manager Identity and Inclusion, Diana Gichengo said, “We believe that the Government should suspend NIIMS and go back to the drawing board to deliver and identity management system that is safe and secure; that respects the rights to privacy and liberty, and that protects stateless and other marginalised communities from further discrimination and deprivation of Kenyan citizenship.”

The KHRC has since called on Kenyans to boycott the process and not to be cowed by threats as issued from the national and or county governments.

Technology expects I reached out to, seem to opine differently than lawyers and human rights activist and they encourage Kenyans to register for the Huduma Namba for seamless and ease of operations.

The Head of IT Boresha Sacco, Ms Winnie Sergon for example says, “This is the one process that should have come yesterday; it is belated. Am surprised that people are opposed to such a milestone in ease of information acess for everyone. The NIIMS will have all data assembled together and will ease transactions for every single citizen.”

She however feels that if the government could have done then NIIMS registration in phases it could have not faced opposition as it is because right now the citizens are skeptical about what the consequences could be in case the project fails. Winnie also blames the uproar on lack of sensitization from the government what she thinks leaves people in the loop as to whether or not sign up for Huduma Namba.

A random citizen, Nairobi dweller who sought anonymity, gave his thought about the NIIMS registration. He says he is opposed to the activity and hopes the governments calls it out. He feels the process is done hurriedly and without sensitizing the citizens like the e-citizen  what After acquiring the Huduma Namba and consequently the Huduma Card, Kenyans fear for the renawal some alleging that it is a way of locking out on those who will not be able to afford the finances (however little), for renewing the cards.

“Why would the Huduma card that is pretty much a replica of our identity card have expiry dates and monetary renewals when ID cards are free and never expiring?” asked the concerned anonymous citizen.

Linda Bonyo, though relactant to speak about the renewal of the Huduma Card, said that citizens should not miss out on government services because of their inability to financially renew the cards. “Any citizen who gets denied access to services for lack of the Huduma card should report to KHRC for violation of human right.”

The NIIMS registration has stalled in some parts of the country owing poor facilitation and what lawyer Linda Bonyo calls lack of proper preparation from the governments side.


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