- Whenever the government mentions it, the raging debate over Huduma Namba should not be ignored.
- Even though its goal, as the name suggests, is to give individuals faster access to public services, it is clear that the public does not trust it.
Whenever the government mentions it, the raging debate over Huduma Namba should not be ignored. Even though its goal, as the name suggests, is to give individuals faster access to public services, it is clear that the public does not trust it.
We should ask ourselves: why is the public not comfortable with the Huduma Namba? Yet in countries where digital identity has been adopted, they have improved the quality of public service. They are also able to hold the government to account.
Estonia is an example. During her recent visit to Kenya, President Kersti Kaljulaid explained how all Estonians have a state-issued digital identity. This electronic identity system, which has been in existence for 20 years, is the cornerstone of the country’s e-state. And e-ID and the ecosystem that surrounds it are part of the daily transactions of every citizen in the public and private sectors.
What came out clearly from Estonia was how the government made a statement regarding internet access as a human right and how this made citizens trust the government.
For a nation of 1.3 million people, they have started a journey to become the most advanced country in the world.
For Kenyans, there are many lessons we can learn from Estonia about the importance of digital identity. First, despite the vulnerabilities associated with digitization, it is clear that digital ID is the basis for inclusive growth and can have a greater economic impact than its critics say.
In the Covid-19 crisis, we saw how the public and private sectors are looking for ways to authenticate users through digital channels. The economy has therefore come to rely on reliable sources for online users.
Therefore, when we reduce the purpose of digital ID to tax collection, we fail to grasp the whole concept.
A 2019 McKinsey report, Digital identification: A key to inclusive growth, noted that digital identification, when well designed, provides not only civic and social empowerment, but also substantial and inclusive economic gains – a lesser known feature of the technology.
From the start, digital ID was intended to become the sole source of truth by aggregating the many identities of the Kenyan public. This is because the different identifiers that we use have been abused.
Therefore, the Huduma Namba Bill, 2021, which aims to amend several pieces of legislation and create a National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) promises hope for better services.
As digitization intensifies, the demand for online authentication has increased. The applications for various services use the data from the Integrated Population Register (IPRS) built as a central database that can be the source of truth about the identity of all Kenyan citizens and all foreigners in the country.
Under the new arrangement, the digital identification will become part of NIIMS. This will allow more, new and better services to be offered to consumers. This is the infrastructure that is required for all the services we expect from government.
McKinsey says extending full digital ID coverage could unlock an economic value equivalent to 3-13% of GDP in 2030. But the potential varies across countries depending on what share of the economy is bottlenecked. bottlenecks that digital identification can resolve as well as opportunities for improvement in formalization, inclusion and digitization.
But while the share of the economy that digital ID can handle is generally small, the report points out that the potential for improvement is significant, with an average profit per country of around 6% of GDP in 2030.
Much of this value can be collected with just authentication and digital ID. However, since many procedures in developed economies are already digital, opportunities for improvement are limited, necessitating digital ID programs that allow additional data sharing functionality.
Digitization is not going to stop anytime soon. We need to build capacity and enforce the law for that.