Why Govt Has Not Kicked Out WorldCoin From Kenya - CS Owalo

A collage of ICT CS Eliud Owalo on July 31, 2023 (left) and Kenyans lining up at KICC to get their eyes scanned on Tuesday August 1, 2023 (right)
A collage of ICT CS Eliud Owalo on July 31, 2023 (left) and Kenyans lining up at KICC to get their eyes scanned on Tuesday, August 1, 2023 (right)
Ministry of ICT/Jimmy Mbogoh

Update: Interior CS Kithure Kindiki, on Wednesday, August 2, suspended WorldCoin operations countrywide.

ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo assured the nation that the government was looking into the operation of WorldCoin, the cryptocurrency company which has attracted thousands of Kenyans with a Ksh7,000 registration incentive. 

Owalo, in an interview with NTV, however, disclosed that the government was yet to crack down on the international company as it had not broken any laws. 

The government had already initiated investigations on WorldCoin's operations in April 2023, despite the craze picking pace in July 2023, with thousands of Kenya queuing to have their eyes scanned for Ksh7,000. 

A photo collage of Kenyans lined up at KICC (left) to register for WorldCoin and a retina scanner used for the registration exercise.
A photo collage of Kenyans lined up at KICC (left) to register for Worldcoin and an Orb that was used for the registration exercise.
Seth Olale / WorldCoin

According to the CS, the government wrote to WorldCoin, owned by American billionaire Sam Altman, seeking to understand its operations and data protection measures. 

"There are security issues even though in relation to the current data laws, they have not breached anything. Our laws, regulations are not comprehensive," Owalo stated, alluding that WorldCoin targeted loopholes in Kenya's data protection laws to launch operations in the country. 

"Within the existing legal framework today, there are no provisions in the law that the organisation has negated. However, there could be security and regulatory issues around it," Owalo added.

He added that Kenyans were freely giving out their data to the organisation in hopes of getting compensation.

However, the government was forced to intervene after a section of Kenyans sought to understand how the American company was cleared to collect data. 

The CS assured Kenyans that the government was working to ensure their safety online, adding that he will release a comprehensive report on Wednesday, August 2.

"We are dealing with the issue as a whole to safeguard the data of Kenyans. It is a cause of concern to us," he stated.

However, Owalo lamented that WorldCoin was irresponsibly exploiting Kenya's data space and that the government would use a multifaceted approach in regulating its operations. The joint operation would see the ministries of Interior, and ICT, among others, join hands to assess WorldCoin. 

According to the CS, the government was also working towards job creation and ensuring Kenyans are proactive online to generate wealth.

"We expect Kenyans to act responsibly. We must start with self-introspection on what we are going to use technology for," he remarked.

 Immaculate Kassait
A photo of Data Commissioner Immaculate Kassait during a function on November 23, 2022.
Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC)

On July 28, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) cautioned Kenyans against sharing their data with WorldCoin. ODPC urged WordCoin applicants to read its terms and conditions and understand how their data will be used before having their eyes scanned. 

Police, nonetheless, shut down WorldCoin's registration activities at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), citing insecurity concerns. The American company plans to relocate to Nyayo and Kasarani stadiums.