Government begins pilots for new digital ID cards

The Kenyan government has started a pilot scheme for the new digital identification cards. According to a statement released on Wednesday, first-time ID applicants will now be issued with the new cards, known as Maisha Card beginning November 1st, 2023.

Also set to receive the new card with enhanced security are applicants seeking replacements for defaced or lost cards as the government tests the country’s preparedness for a full rollout of digital IDs.

“All Kenyans turning 18 years in whichever part of Kenya will be issued with a Maisha Card on a pilot basis. This way, we will establish whether there are any errors or issues before we do the penultimate launch.” Immigration and Citizen Services Permanent Secretary Prof Julius Bitok said.

Maisha Card will feature a unique personal identifier (UPI) number known as Maisha Namba that will be the primary and lifelong registration and identification reference for its holders. 

All newborns will also be issued with Maisha Namba to use in their birth certificates and subsequent registration for government services including school enrolment and health services. The same number will translate to their Maisha card number upon attainment of 18 years. 

Under the proposed plan, the government will gradually phase out the 2nd generation IDs in favour of Maisha Card with the current ID number translating to Maisha Namba. There will however be no mass registration for biometrics or a dedicated budget for the exercise according to Bitok. 

He said Maisha Namba, Maisha Card and Maisha Digital ID will be consolidated into a population register to be known as Maisha Integrated Database. This will negate vetting for issuance of Identity Cards. 

“This will revolutionise inclusivity for marginalized communities through voiding the need for vetting,”  he said.

While launching locally manufactured smartphones on Monday, President Willam Ruto announced the intended piloting of digital IDs that is designed to complement online commerce and consumption of government services. 

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Nixon Kanali

Tech journalist based in Nairobi. I track and report on tech and African startups. Founder and Editor of TechTrends Media. Nixon is also the East African tech editor for Africa Business Communities. Send tips to

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