Media watch

Media Watch: What is Huduma Number, How does it help you? Why the controversy explained

Uhuru Kenyatta launching Huduma Number Image Courtesy of

This week the government embarked on a very ambitious project. The project aimed at putting Kenya’s biometric data online under the National Integrated Management System NIIMS to generate a unique number called “Huduma Number”. A lot has been said over the last two weeks but really what is Huduma Number? What does it do for you as a citizen?

What is Huduma Number and how will the number be generated?

National Integrated Identity Management officials will input your biometric data and then it will generate a unique number. This number is now what is being commonly called “Huduma Number”. This Huduma number will allow you to get services from any government office. Once your documents have been verified then you qualify for a Huduma Card which will allow you to pay for government services.

What do you need to register for Huduma Number?

It is simple just show up to a nearby area with your National Identity Card, National Passport and Birth Certificate. If you have a National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF)and KRA pin card then you should also carry it.

Who can register?

Anybody above 6 years can be registered to get a Huduma Number. Anyone can register and it is open to both citizens and foreigners on Work or student visas or asylum seekers.  

So why is this program so controversial?

The Huduma Number program has been dogged with a lot of controversy since its pilot phase. Some of the issues were addressed by the President in his address during the launch of the program however it has not put to rest a lot of red lines.

The biggest problem is the fact that the policy framework has not been put in place. For one there are no data protection laws to protect data breaches and in extension to protect Kenyans data from being mismanaged. In her article for Aljazeera , Nanjala Nyabola explains why this is a huge problem. She explains that the fact Kenya’s election data was stored in a different country and could not be accessed in a very important legal process then it is a huge problem.

Another issue is the fact that the data may get into the wrong hands or may turn into a mega surveillance system. However this may already be an issue with Privacy International releasing a report that security apparatus in the country are spying into people’s phones in order to collect charter on security threats without having to collect warrants.

The fact that MasterCard which is an international company has been entrusted with making of Huduma Cards makes it a bit problematic as it would mean entrusting a lot of data to a private firm.

Another problem is the law that may have been used. The government is going backwards in making this permanently legal. In an interview Karanja Kibicho said that the Huduma Numba Bill will be introduced. However this is not the bill that has made the process to start, an Amendment to the Registration of Persons act which legalizes collection of biometric data.

The fact that Public education was not done then it means then it leaves people without little knowledge on how it operates which makes it harder for people to register and makes it very suspicious as to why the government was making it mandatory.

Will you get government services without Huduma Namba?

Yes, though at first the policy was to make it mandatory for you not to get any services at a Government office without it a Huduma Namba a court ruling overturned that. In the ruling made by a 3 judge bench has made very strict specifications. The government will not be allowed to collect DNA from your biometrics or guarantee privacy to that data. It also emphasized that government services shall continue being rendered to people with or without Huduma Number which makes it not mandatory for you to get.


Categories: Media watch

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