The Internet is ablaze with conversations around the recently announced move by Kenya's government to refresh its citizen data trove and enrich it with additional subsets. These will include biometric, GIS and DNA information under the National Integrated Identity Management System.

Some state corporations such as the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) are also driving sweeping changes in the sectors under their mandate.

The NTSA is mopping up additional datasets with the smart license program. All this has been sold by key government officials as being critical to improved service delivery and core to matters national security. An assumed clear upside that need not be explained even to an increasing skeptic and spooked target user base.

Regular politics and tender dynamics notwithstanding, Kenya's government must understand that it boils down to loss of control for the citizen, not the perception of it, but a real resignation to the fact that there is nothing to cherish as private. From what would be considered mundane from a third party perspective; say a kiss from a special someone, to direct, not inferred visibility on matters of personal economic benefit or risk.

It is one thing to parade what other nations are doing or have done, Estonia with e-identity and Singapore with SingPass being poster childchild and quite another to replicate and get acceptance, where the issue is not in the technologies themselves but in the real or perceived avenues of abuse that such a pot of gold would attract.

Citizens must be given control over their data and assured beyond all reasonable doubt that due effort the and the process has been taken towards its protection across the entire lifecycle of all bits and bytes; fthe rom the collection, transmission, analysis, storage, retri, val, and consumption.

On this issue, the current government can be truly transformational, leaving a decent legacy by ensuring alignment of both policy and infrastructure, coupled with tools that will deliver on much-needededed buy-in by the majority population. The benefits must be real, tangible and relatable. The assets realized, collectively and individually must be securely domiciled in-country with complete transparency on access, whether physically or remotely via applicatprogrammingmming interfaces should the platforms be built out as such.

The Data Protection Bill is a work in progress, but in all truth, even once it gets passed as all indicators portend, the ink will not count for much if the majority population views the sum total of interventions as a system of oppression and punitive expression.


Cover image credit: (2010) The entrance to the Parliament Buildings, Nairobi, Kenya. Wikimedia Commons

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