This is my National ID card. This Is my passport. This is my NHIF card. This is my NSSF card. This is my Driving license. This is my KRA pin. All this are things I need to carry and walk around with especially if you plan on visiting a government office or other institutions like banks. But why all this? Why can’t we have just one card that consolidates all this things?
That idea was born was called Huduma Number and it was a good idea with a terrible execution which made it flop. So today, lets talk about Huduma number, what went wrong and what can be done. My name is Nahashon and lets get to it.
The whole idea of Huduma number was a solid idea. It is something that this country needs to help resolve some of the bureaucracy problems that we phase. The only problem was that its execution was so bad that it turned to some kind of threat instead of a meaningful voluntary service. We can all remember the minister then saying anyone without the card will be deported or even threats like people being arrested and denied government services if if they don’t take the huduma number. This lack of logic only pushed people to rebel against it and several people, like me, never took it. Months later, anyone who applied is yet to get the huduma card or even the number.
Lets talk about The process
Like an election, people went to huduma centre points and apply for the card. Their details were taken and they got a reference number. Not the actual number, but rather some type of receipt written on a piece of paper. That is what they would use to track if the huduma number is ready. Months latter, nobody is yet to have it. The process also had issues like people not having the forms to fill the details and were required to download from the huduma center website or they would have to pay the agents there to give them forms. The whole process was heavily publicised by politicians like the former prime minister, cabinet secretaries and other business moguls.
Problems and controversies
Again, the whole idea of huduma number is solid. We are all tired of having to remember to walk with all this different cards but the first major controversy with huduma number was
1. Lack of data protection laws
The huduma number process was a massive scale of data collection and yet Kenya didn’t have ant data protection laws at that time. What this means is that, the whole database of huduma number could be compromised and different companies would start misusing that data through spamming us with unsolicited messages and since the data is very accurate, it could even lead to national security issues because anyone could easily locate someone through the addresses they filled when applying for the card. I have talked more in depth on how companies are misusing the M-Pesa paybill and till numbers you can click on the card above to watch that. Now imagine having the details of each and every Kenyan.
The other data privacy concern was the amount of biological data they wanted. Initially, it was thought that they would collect biometric data, that is finger print and facial recognition and they would also collect DNA. World over, collection of DNA is a bad idea that is being fought because of its very high level of accuracy that cannot only pinpoint you as an individual but even go on to identify your family and extended family. From this, we can see how dangerous that amount of data can be in the wrong hands.
2. The threats
The other problem which was even personal for me was the constant threats. A government should function to provide services to its citizens and provide a good working environment for the same. With our government, most of their policies are always pushed out like demands and threats which tend to leave very little room for logical thinking. In return, people tend to rebel against this ideas because they turn out to not sound genuine. Services like collection of national ID, applying for KRA pin among others are all ongoing processes that anyone can do at any time. Why was it so urgent for huduma number to be done all at once?
3. Mark of the beast
This was an issue raised by several religious groups and you know what, am not even going to talk about that because its beyond stupid so let’s move on to the next issue which is.
We have applied for all this different cards before especially the national ID card, voter registration and KRA. The government already has all the data that they needed and there was really no new information that they were going to collect. So why repeat the whole process again and not merge the data they have and call us to go for collection of the cards.
5. The mastercard connection
Mastercard is a foreign American company. Why would a government trust another institution from another country with all the data of its own citizens? Again, with no data protection, what would stop mastercard from misusing the data they collect from the process and lastly, what was the reason for choosing mastercard over visa or any other card service?
According to the huduma registration, in the case of a new born child, only the marital status of the mother is considered and not the father. This on its own is discriminatory. Without the card, you would also not marry, pay taxes, own property or vote. Again this brings with it so many issues which we can reference back to point number 2 where we talked about threats.
7 Did we try this before?
This is another problem with the huduma number. During the Kibaki government, the minister of Immigration who was then the late Otieno Kajwang had launched a service that was to introduce a smart national ID card. Its idea was very similar to huduma number but years later, we never saw that amount to anything. The same can be said of digitising number plates, making matatus cashless, issuing of new digital driving licenses, among many other government services that have either completely stalled or the execution is very slow for anyone to remember they even exist.
But that’s enough with the problems so lets discuss about some of the solutions that the government can take.
1. Strict data privacy laws.
More than anything, this was one of the things the government should have implemented first. We do currently have data protection laws, which unfortunately sound rushed from the time I went through it but subscribe to the channel to keep tabs on when I release the video on that, where we will look into it in more details. The privacy laws was a good step and we could only hope companies will follow the law and work to protect the data they collect from being misused.
2. Consolidating data
Like I mentioned, the government already has all our personal details including the biometric data. When you go to replace your national ID today, you will have your finger prints taken, a picture and other details confirmed. The government can then instead consolidate all that data and issue new generation National ID cards which will act as 1 card for everything. That is National ID, KRA, NHIF, NSSF, Driving license and any other government number that is needed. And that leads me to my next solution which is
3. 1 number for all
The National ID number is already unique to every person. Therefore it is easy for the same number to be used across all other government services instead of having multiple identification numbers. This will intern make it easy for us to just have one number that we can memorise and use everywhere. For a service that uses a unique number like KRA, the same can be added on the same unified card and here is a sample design I did for what an idea National ID card can look like
4. Going digital
NTSA has an app that you can use to add your ID number and it will show if your driving license is valid. Even though the Kenya police remain to be ignorant on such technologies and still require you to show a physical card, digitisation will continue and the government can use this chance to take us even more digital, considering that was their elections slogan.
Using a mobile app, it should be easy for me to just enter my Unified ID number and show it either to a bank, government office or any other institution that requires my information. Banks and other institutions can also have their own different app which can be used to identify a person and verify that the information shown is accurate. A good example of how this can work is either the NTSA app or the current KRA PIN checker. You just enter the number and it identifies the person. This is even secure to use during elections and we can solve the issues of having fake national ID cards being used.
5. Dropping the chip
By having a chip from a foreign company, the huduma number card will set itself up for some serious security issues with the most common being identitiy theft. As a card which I assume was to activate transactions, that would beat the whole purpose of the card from being a utility to becoming like a business transaction tool which shouldt be the case in service provision.
So that has been it for this video I hope it has some valuable information and its intention is not to fight the government but rather have a meaningful conversation towards creating and implementing policies. Be sure to like the video for more people to see it and subscribe to the channel so that you can be updated of future videos. Until next time, be well, stay safe.