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Gen Z among first recipients of new digital ID 'Maisha Card' as pilot phase starts

The State Department of Immigration has launched the pilot phase of the new digital ID dubbed Maisha Card

Immigration and Citizen Services PS Julius Bitok displays a copy of a booklet on Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Digital ID to the media at the Nairobi Serena Hotel. Looking on is Amnesty International Kenya Executive Director Irungu Houghton

Starting November 1, first-time ID applicants and individuals seeking replacements for defaced or lost cards will be issued the Maisha Card, as the government assesses the country's readiness for a comprehensive rollout of digital IDs.

Among the first recipients of the Maisha Card are individuals turning 18 years old across the nation. This means that many Gen Z will be among those who will receive the new digital IDs.

All Kenyans turning 18 years in whichever part of Kenya will be issued with a Maisha Card on a pilot basis. This way, we will establish whether there are any errors or issues before we do the penultimate launch,” PS Bitok said in a statement on Wednesday.

This pilot phase aims to identify and address any potential errors or issues before the full launch.

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Immigration and Citizen Services PS Prof Julius Bitok, highlighted the importance of this phase, particularly in learning from previous experiences, such as the introduction of Huduma Namba, and avoiding pitfalls through enhanced public participation and stakeholder sensitization sessions.

The National Registration Bureau, processing approximately 10,000 applications for first-time IDs daily, will also handle requests for duplicate cards during this phase.

The Maisha Card incorporates a microprocessor electronic chip with encrypted data to enhance security and minimize risks of forgery.

It also supports the creation of a virtual ID, known as Maisha Digital ID, catering to individuals with smartphones.

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President William Ruto, during the launch of locally manufactured smartphones, announced the piloting of digital IDs to complement online commerce and government service consumption.

The Maisha Card features a unique personal identifier (UPI) number, Maisha Namba, serving as the primary and lifelong registration and identification reference for cardholders.

Newborns will also receive a Maisha Namba for use in their birth certificates and subsequent registration for government services.

The government plans to gradually phase out 2nd generation IDs in favor of the Maisha Card, with the current ID number translating to Maisha Namba.

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PS Bitok clarified that there would be no mass registration for biometrics or a dedicated budget for the exercise.

“During the rollout of Huduma Number, all Kenyans were asked to register afresh. Billions of shillings were used to roll it out. For Maisha Namba, we not harvesting biometrics neither are we asking for additional money. We are using the existent budget for registration of persons for the Maisha Namba ecosystem rollout,” PS Bitok said.

The Maisha Namba, Maisha Card, and Maisha Digital ID will be consolidated into a population register known as the Maisha Integrated Database, streamlining the issuance of Identity Cards and revolutionizing inclusivity for marginalized communities.

The Maisha Card represents a pivotal step in Kenya's journey towards a digital and secure identification system.

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