In Summary
  • Recently the President signed the Miscellaneous Amendment Act (18 of 2018) which, among other things, updated the Registration of Persons Act by establishing the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS).
  • NIIMS will connect all the disjointed registration systems about Kenya citizens by providing a unique number that would be used to link them together.
  • What is of concern however is the expansion of the registration process to include very sensitive information - deoxyribonucleic acid – otherwise commonly known as DNA data.
  • Whereas the new changes would give impetus to the fight against terrorism, we must always be wary of such developments without commensurate checks and balances.

Recently the President signed the Miscellaneous Amendment Act (18 of 2018) which, among other things, updated the Registration of Persons Act by establishing the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS).

The functions of NIIMS are many but the first three, as inscribed in the Act are of interest and state are as follows:

9A. (I) There is hereby established the National Integrated Identity Management System

(2) The functions of the system are:-
(a) to create, manage, maintain and operate a national population register as a single source of personal information of all Kenyan citizens and registered foreigners resident in Kenya;
(b) to assign a unique national identification number to every person registered in the register;
(c) to harmonise, incorporate and collate into the register, information from other databases in Government agencies relating to registration of persons;

Essentially NIIMS will connect all the disjointed registration systems about Kenya citizens by providing a unique number that would be used to link them together. The various identification systems to be linked together include, but not limited to, the national IDs, passport IDs, voter IDs, birth & death IDs amongst others.

The benefits and risks of a having a single identification number that can integrate with the rest of other registries were well articulated by the lawyer Mr. Gatuyu Justus and so there is very little to add.

Perhaps I would simply emphasis that the Kenyan digital economy will only rise to its full potential once Kenyans have a unique number that is traceable across different service sectors such as health, education, commerce and entertainment.

DNA

What is of concern however is the expansion of the registration process to include very sensitive information - deoxyribonucleic acid – otherwise commonly known as DNA data. The new clause explains "Biometric" to mean ''unique identifiers or attributes including fingerprints, hand geometry, earlobe geometry, retina and iris patterns, voice waves and Deoxyribonucleic Acid in digital form.''

Whereas Kenya would not be the first country to collect very sensitive personal data, it is notable that those countries that do so such as US, UK and India have very strong legal frameworks for protecting the privacy of individuals as well as securing the said data from abuse or potential hacks.

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