Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and his ICT counterpart Joe Mucheru on Wednesday, November 18 announced plans to phase out national Identification cards.
Mucheru stated that national IDs would cease operating by December 2021 and would be replaced with Huduma Namba Cards.
The Huduma Namba cards are to be issued to citizens from December 1, 2020.
Kenyans who failed to sign up during the nationwide Huduma Namba registration process will have a chance to do so in a second mass registration exercise slated for April 2021.
Matiang’i led an event in Kiambu County to launch the distribution of the first batch of cards to registered citizens.
Citizens who registered for the Huduma Namba will be notified via SMS once their cards are ready.
The government had previously reiterated that anyone without the card would be barred from accessing government services, a declaration that was challenged in court.
The Huduma Namba project, otherwise known as the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), has been a key focus area for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration in his second term.
According to the state, the program is meant to develop a national integrated population register to be a ‘single source of truth’ on a person’s identity in Kenya.
The distribution of the cards came barely a day after Immaculate Kassait was sworn in as the country’s first Data Commissioner.
The High Court had ruled in 2019 that the Huduma Namba was illegal because, at the time, there were no explicit data protection laws nor had a substantive Data Commissioner been appointed.
Kassait, the former director of voter registration and election operations at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), will be responsible for the enforcement of the Data Protection Act.
Her duties will include providing oversight on data processing operations, promoting self-regulation among data controllers and promoting international cooperation on data protection related matters.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and first lady Margaret Kenyatta became the first citizens to receive the Huduma Namba cards during Mashujaa Day celebrations at Gusii Stadium, Kisii on October 20.
“We are now ready to start issuing cards to Kenyans…so that they can start getting services online and stop the long queues in government offices,” Uhuru stated before Matiang’i presented them with the cards.