ICT Cabinet Secretary, Eliud Owalo, has announced that the digital identity card (huduma namba) is optional for Kenyans, a departure from the directives of the previous administration.
Huduma Namba was intended to replace the existing identity cards, which the government argued to be outdated.
However, the government has changed its approach to encourage voluntary compliance, leaving it to individuals to decide whether they want to obtain the digital identity card or not.
While giving the ICT ministry’s scorecard for the past year on Monday, Owalo emphasized that it is not the government’s role to compel people to register, but rather the decision should be at the discretion of Kenyans.
Some Kenyans had expressed concerns about the plan, suggesting that a new card could simply be issued with the same current identification numbers, without the need for an entire system overhaul.
“We will not force any Kenyan to acquire a digital identity. The choice will be yours, whether you prefer accessing government services through digital identity based on your biodata or by physically visiting government offices,” said Owalo.
He further explained that the government requires virtual means to verify individuals’ identities, but the decision to adopt this method lies with the citizens.
Kenyans now have the responsibility to determine whether they wish to be identified digitally or continue using the old system.
Initially, the government had planned to phase out the current generation of identity cards and introduce a new one that would consolidate all government-issued documents, including birth certificates, NHIF numbers, and NSSF numbers, among others.
Owalo stated that the government is considering the implementation of a civil registration and vital statistics system that aligns with the requirements of the new digital era.
The new system will assign unique personal identification numbers to all individuals born in Kenya right from birth.