Digital ID

Understanding Maisha Namba: Kenya’s New Digital Identity System

By John Walubengo

The failed Huduma Namba project has now been officially replaced by the Maisha Namba project, which seems to be on track and currently being executed under the pilot stage. Those wishing to participate in the pilot stage are advised to download the ‘Gava Mkononi App’ on their mobile devices and complete the registration process.

It turns out that this Maisha Namba project is a group of several interconnected projects or elements. These elements include

• the Maisha Namba

• the Maisha Card

• the Digital ID and

• the National Population Master Register

According to government publications, Maisha Namba is defined as a unique personal identification number assigned to every Kenyan citizen upon registration, typically at birth. This number will be a lifelong personal identity number from birth to death.

This Maisha number will also serve as the birth certificate number for new-borns and as 

as the registration number for government services, including but not limited to enrolment in educational institutions (NEMIS), health insurance (NHIF), and as the National ID number upon reaching 18 years old. 

Further, this Maisha number will also serve as a Personal Identification Number (PIN) for Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and National Social Security Fund (NSSF among others. Upon your demise, this same number will translate into your death certificate number.

This number will be your digital shadow, tracking down most of the events you will carry out in the real world. We hope there will be commensurate digital security and privacy practices and procedures to ensure this information is not shared with unauthorised third parties.

Maisha Card

The Maisha Card component will replace the current 2nd generation IDs commissioned about 30 years ago. The new card will have enhanced security details, including a microprocessor chip with encrypted data. It will include a photo image of the applicant, a national ID number (the same as Maisha Namba), a serial number, biometric and geo-residential data, and other data.

Some of the benefits the government anticipates from the new Maisha Card include:

  • A national electronic ID card compliant with current international standards will enable Kenyan citizens to use it as a travel document within the wider East African community.
  • A modernised ID processing system, equipment, and materials would result in issuing a more secure identification document, thereby reducing counterfeiting.
  • A 3rd generation electronic card would facilitate more efficient validation of personal identification data by public and private institutions, thereby simplifying citizens’ access to services.

This means that Kenyans should still expect to hold a physical plastic card – though with enhanced security features – for purposes of identification in the physical world.

Digital ID and National Master Population Register

Government publications define Digital ID, as the short form for Digital Identity. It is a unique representation of an individual, organisation, or device in digital form—a virtual representation of the physical ID. 

The main role of the Digital ID is to verify and authenticate the identity of individuals or entities in various online transactions and interactions. 

It would use established computer protocols (public key infrastructure) to offer a secure and convenient means to access digital services and safeguard against identity theft.

Your digital ID will still be linked to your Maisha Namba and will be used to uniquely identify you when and if you decide to use it to complete online transactions, both in the public and the private sector. It is expected to be the oil that will drive the digital economy.

The final component of the Maisha digital project is the National Master Population Register, which will amalgamate existing and independent databases into a single integrated register that will be the central reference for all data about Kenyan citizens and foreign residents.

Government sources indicate that this National Master Database is the one that will interlink multiple government departments to harmonise and consolidate the information of all registered individuals into a Unique Personal Identifier (Maisha Namba).

The idea is to establish a centralised, single source of ‘truth’ or accurate information about its population. Specifically, it will consolidate population data maintained by the Integrated Population Registration System (IPRS) and the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIMS).

Most human rights defenders are always concerned about this centralized, single database due to its vulnerabilities in terms of personal data abuse from within and outside government actors.

A single source of truth is good for eliminating duplicate records and increasing the integrity and accuracy of data. It, however, introduces a single point of failure, both technically and from a human rights point of view.

Only a blockchain-based digital identity solution can resolve this challenge. Perhaps that is something in the pipeline.

John Walubengo is an ICT Lecturer and Consultant. @jwalu.

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16 Comments

  1. HANNINGTON

    Why my I’d card is not able to create good conduct

    Reply
  2. SYLVIAH MORAA

    I can’t use the Id because of the extra digit,the has limited me from accessing my helb funds and also my email doesn’t reflect on systems.please help me out am tired.

    Reply
    • SYLVIAH MOSOTI MORAA

      I blocked my sim card I have dialed *100# but still can’t get the PUK

      Reply
  3. Dynah Nyawira

    Why is my id refusing to register my nhif and nssf

    Reply
  4. Eddy munywoki

    This identity card are not helping because you cant do anything with them such as line registration and even opening of bank account
    Please GOK help us and input our details in the system so that we can access services as other citizens.

    Reply
    • Christian Bosire

      Kindly look into this. I have met zero success in all registrations requiring ID numbers. Opening an helb account is impossible because the number you are giving us is nine digited and what the system wants 8 digits. Same goes for sim card registration. Could we please get some help.

      Reply
  5. Moreen Mutugi

    Why is my maisha namba card not registering a new simcard

    Reply
    • Isaac kilaa

      Why is it that my maisha number has 9 digits. Despite of all, i still can’t access services like registering safaricom line. What’s not happening.

      Reply
  6. Ochieng

    Why does my maisha number are more than eight???

    Reply
  7. james pholio

    The Id makes work impossible to use as it not yet well known by even safaricom themselves,please find a way to help us as kenyans

    Reply
  8. Helmi

    Why is this ID I cannot use it to open my HELB account?

    Reply
    • Laroi

      Just not fair why doesn’t the maisha number unable to be used in helb account activation and any other registration

      Reply
  9. Mohammed

    Why can’t I take helb claiming the numbers are excess

    Reply
  10. David

    I Can’t use my ID to access helb.. How can you help me please…..?

    Reply
  11. Jaguar Shem

    Why does maisha number can’t register anything 😭😭

    Reply
  12. Japheth makau

    My id can’t be used to register for helb and access other government services because of the extra digit. What am i going to do now?is there any way out of this.?

    Reply

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