Growing concern over Kenya's Huduma roll out


Digital rights advocacy group, Paradigm Initiative (PI) has added its voice to growing concern over privacy related to a bill before the Kenyan Parliament for the roll out of a single number linked to residents' personal information, including biometric and demographic data in digital form.

Rebecca Ryakitimbo, PI's Google Policy Fellow, East Africa, said the Huduma number is governed by an Act that supports the introduction of a National Integrated Management System to maintain a national population register for all persons within Kenya, including foreigners.

It is designed to ease identification processes and public service delivery.

However, human rights-focused organisations - including the Nubian Rights Forum, Kenya Human Rights Commission and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, claim that Huduma violates the right to privacy, equality and public participation, amongst other rights.

PI wants parliament to look at the Bill's implication to the right to privacy and ensure it encompasses data protection, provides for principles of fairness and transparency, and does not deny residents access to services by establishing several de-facto requirements.

The organisation made the call following recent developments in Nigeria, where it failed to legally compel the country's National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to suspend the implementation of its Digital Identity Systems, pending the introduction of a comprehensive data protection law to address identified security lapses and privacy concerns.

The case was dismissed as the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) introduces the Nigerian Data Protection Regulation.

"Clearly, NIMC was going about the implementation of (the) digital identity project in Nigeria without a data protection law in Nigeria and that was the basis of this case," said PI Program Manager Adeboye Adegoke, adding that the court decided to rely on the announced NITDA regulation while the case was still pending.

"Meanwhile, as an organisation we have strong concerns and this includes whether the NITDA's regulation can be a substitute for a comprehensive data protection law compliant with the best global standards such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union".

PI also hopes an improved Digital Rights and Freedom Bill 2019, which passed the first reading at the National Assembly last month, will succeed another round of legislative process.

The Bill seeks to protect the rights of internet users in Nigeria and to guarantee application of human rights for users of digital platforms.

President Buhari declined assent to the first version passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate at the 8th National Assembly.