LISTEN NOW: Kenya’s Huduma Namba: Risks, Responses, and the Fight for Genuine Inclusion


Author: Sarah Corley

This webinar looks at the response to Kenya’s transition to “Huduma Namba” and establishes the need to address exclusion in digital transitions, highlight policy recommendations, and inspire greater use of legal empowerment strategies towards inclusive digital identity in practice. Our two expert panelists leading the webinar are Laura Goodwin, Director of the Citizenship Program at Namati and Zahra Khalid, Paralegal at the Nubian Rights Forum.

Throughout this webinar we hear the story of Ahmed, a 72 year old Kenyan who has been waiting over 26 years for a replacement copy of his ID to be issued after theft of the original. 5 million Kenyan citizens are subject to a vetting process based upon their ethnicity or religious affiliation, something not addressed by the introduction of Haduma Namba. Without addressing existing challenges/biases within an ID system, digitalisation will increase only increase exclusion further from services and grants who will use this DID for authentication. Those who need and would benefit most from a digital ID are often the ones who find themselves excluded and become even more vulnerable.

Digital ID systems have several potential points where exclusion can occur:

  • Enrolment – e.g. the acceptance of certain documents, the rules around registration and accessibility of registration centres
  • Data verification – e.g. the training manual and processing procedures for the registrar teams, what items have to match for verification
  • Use – e.g. will it be accepted equally or can it be used to bias services for/against a community. From a tech perspective authentication can be challenged when the server or connectivity is down or there is biometric failure

Potential solutions and safeguards to prevent exclusion include:

  • Greater acceptance of supporting documentation
  • An introducer system – a trusted person to vouch for the identity of those without documents
  • To not rely on just one form of ID to access services
  • Transparency around data verification and the appeals process
  • Manual back-up for authentication
  • Grievance redress mechanism

Legal action is being taken in Kenya against Haduma Namba for a number of reasons, including the use of a miscellaneous amendment bill to introduce, lack of public participation, no data protection policy on how the data will be used and the exclusions within the system. Nubian Rights Forum and Namati are playing a vital role in empowering communities to fight for transparency and genuine inclusion.