Huduma Number Loopholes Identified in Mzalendo Report

  • President Uhuru Kenyatta pictured during the Huduma Namba registration drive in 2019
    President Uhuru Kenyatta pictured during the Huduma Namba registration drive in 2019
    PSCU
  • The Mzalendo Report on Digital Rights in Kenya published on Thursday, August 13, identified various loopholes in the proposed Huduma Bill, 2019, as well as other legislations relating to Kenyans' data such as the Data Protection Act.

    Millions of Kenyans turned out to register for the Huduma Namba, with the government promising that the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) would be an all-in-one pass to efficiently access services from government agencies.

    The report noted that the insistence fingerprints as the sole registration option posed a challenge given the threat it posed if the database was compromised. 

    Kenyans line up to register for Huduma Number in April 2019
    Kenyans line up to register for Huduma Number in April 2019
    File

    "The emphasis placed on the use of fingerprints to enroll or identify an enrolled person is very limiting. Given that it proposes that biometric information cannot be altered by an individual, it could be a tall order for enrolled entries in case the data is stolen or lost from NIIMs," the report reads in part.

    While each fingerprint is unique, they can be stolen and copied. In some cases, they are moulded onto artificial silicon fingers and used in identity theft; allowing hackers to access locked mobile phones, payment systems and more.

    The government has, however, issued multiple assurances that the data stored in NIIMS database, will remain secure. 

    "Do you know where the data on your driving license is? Do you know where your PIN (KRA) data is? Do you know where your ID data is?" Matiang'i posed.

    "You have trusted your government so much, why are you mistrusting us at this point in time?" stated Interior CS Fred Matiang'i in April 2019 amid concerns over the safety of Kenyans' data.

    The report also observed that the fingerprint option posed a challenge for sections of the population including those who have worn out their fingerprints due to the nature of their work.

    It also noted that the bill focused on the technology side of things, failing to adequately capture issues of community awareness.

    "It lacks adequate provisions for public education and awareness on how the technology that will be the primary anchor for the registration process operates. It also lacks provisions for enhancing of informed consent in light of the digital demands of the system," the report adds.

    It was noted that while the bill did not adequately address the challenges of marginalised groups during the registration process, the report directly tasked the Cabinet Secretary with developing steps to mitigate any legal, procedural and social barriers that may limit enrollment.

    The report further questioned the enrollment of children above six years, stating that it was not in line with best practices.

    "This provision is not consistent with the children’s best interests that limit their engagement. Indeed, the existing law requires that children gain access to service through their parents or guardian," it noted.

    Interior CS Fred Matiang'i addresses the press from his offices on November 12, 2018.
    Interior CS Fred Matiang'i addresses the press from his offices on November 12, 2018.
    The Standard