High Court suspends issuance of new digital IDs

The Kenyan High Court has issued orders suspending the registration and issuance of new digital IDs. 

The suspension follows an application filed by Katiba Institute which sought to restrain the government from executing or further executing the the issuance of the IDs, known as Maisha Namba. The institute wanted the government to first conduct a data protection impact assessment per section 31 of the Data Protection Act before going ahead with the exercise. 

Katiba Institute also cited inadequate public participation and a lack of robust legal framework in adopting the new digital IDs as some of the concerns.

“The leave shall operate as a stay, restraining implementation or further implementation by any person of the Respondent’s November 1, 2023 decision to roll out or pilot the Maisha Namba, including the digital card, digital ID, unique personal identifier, and a National Master Population Register, before and without a data protection impact assessment per Section 31 of the Data Protection Act,” the court said in its ruling by Justice John Chigit read. 

The Kenyan government started doing a pilot programme for the new digital IDs in November. According to a statement, first-time ID applicants will now be issued the “new Maisha Card starting November 1st, 2023”.

Applicants seeking replacements for defaced or lost cards will also receive the new card.

“On a trial basis, all Kenyans turning 18 in any part of Kenya will be issued with a Maisha Card. This way, we’ll know whether there are any faults or issues before the penultimate launch.” Prof Julius Bitok, Permanent Secretary for Immigration and Citizen Services, stated when he announced the pilot.

Maisha Card will include a unique personal identifier (UPI) number known as Maisha Namba, which will serve as its holders’ primary and lifelong registration and identifying reference.

President William Ruto has previously said the intention to pilot digital IDs is to support the country’s digital plans, including the consumption of government services.

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