Advocacy update

Kenyan Court Puts Hold on Digital Identity Scheme

Date
January 31, 2020
Contact
Brooke Havlik
media@opensocietyfoundations.org
+1-646-402-9513

A Kenyan court has ordered the government to stop implementation of its the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) until a constitutionally sound framework is in place, following a legal challenge by Kenyan civil society groups supported by the Justice Initiative.

Popularly known as Huduma Namba (service number) the scheme was launched in January 2019 as a centralized, digital population register, but raised concerns over its discriminatory impact on marginalized groups, as well as over its invasive design, including the centralization of massive stores of personal data without meaningful checks on overreach, unauthorized access, and other forms of abuse. The Justice Initiative supported the challenge to the scheme from the Nubian Rights Forum, which builds on efforts by the country’s Nubian minority to secure identity documentation and to overcome entrenched discrimination in the way that Kenya’s current registration schemes operate.  

In its January 30 ruling, the court effectively maintained a stay initially placed in April on implementation of NIIMS, until a comprehensive regulatory framework is in place to address both data privacy issues and the exclusionary nature of the system. 

It found the current legal framework on data privacy is "inadequate and totally wanting” as a result of a rushed process, and that NIIMS has a high risk of excluding an entire segment of the Kenyan population.

The court also determined that the collection of DNA and GPS information for identification is unconstitutional and nullified the legal provisions that would have included this data in the Huduma Namba scheme. 

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