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Huduma Namba essential to quality service

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Huduma Namba essential to quality service


An officer sorts through Huduma cards at the Nyeri City National Registration Office on April 28, 2021. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG

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Summary

  • Whenever the government mentions it, the raging debate over Huduma Namba should not be ignored.
  • Even though its aim is, as its name suggests, to give people 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 aim is, as its name suggests, to give people 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 a good 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 existed for 20 years, is the cornerstone of the country’s e-State. And the e-ID and the ecosystem that surrounds it are part of the daily transactions of every citizen in the public and private sectors.

What stands out clearly about Estonia is how the government has made a statement regarding internet access as a human right and how this has made citizens trust the government.

For a nation of 1.3 million people, they have thus embarked on a journey to become the most advanced country in the world.

For Kenyans, we can learn many lessons from Estonia about the importance of digital identity. First, despite the vulnerabilities that come with digitalization, it is clear that digital ID forms the basis for inclusive growth and can have a greater economic impact than its critics claim.

In the Covid-19 crisis, we have seen how the public and private sectors are looking for ways to authenticate users through digital channels. The economy has therefore come to rely on trusted sources for online users.

Therefore, when we reduce the focus of digital ID to tax collection, we fail to capture the entire concept.

A 2019 McKinsey report, Digital ID: A Key to Inclusive Growth, noted that digital ID, when designed well, not only delivers 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 single source of truth by aggregating the many identities of the Kenyan public. This is because the various identifiers we use have been abused.

Hence, the Huduma Namba Bill, 2021 which seeks to amend several legislations and create a National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) promises the hope of better services.

As digitization intensifies, the demand for online authentication has increased. The applications for various services use the Integrated Population Register (IPRS) data built as a central database which can be the source of the truth of the identity of all Kenyan citizens and all foreigners in the country.

Under the new arrangement, the digital ID will be part of the NIIMS. It will make it possible to offer consumers more new and better services. It is the infrastructure required for all the services we expect from government.

McKinsey says extending full digital ID coverage could unlock economic value equivalent to 3-13% of GDP in 2030. But the potential varies by country depending on which part of the economy has bottlenecks. of bottlenecks that digital identification can solve as well as opportunities for improvement in formalization, inclusion and digitization.

But while the share of the economy that digital ID can address is generally small, the report highlights that the potential for improvement is significant, with an average benefit per country of around 6% of GDP in 2030.

Much of this value can be collected with just authentication and digital identification. However, as many procedures in developed economies are already digital, opportunities for improvement are limited, requiring digital ID programs that enable additional data sharing functionality.

Digitization is not going to stop anytime soon. We need to build capacity and enforce the law for this.