The government has now sough to dispel claims that newborns will be implanted with electronic chips in the digital ID rollout.
Immigration and Citizen Services Principal Secretary Prof Julius Bitok, in a statement to newsrooms on Wednesday, allayed the fears saying the misinformation was a creation of foreign firms after the government denied them business contracts in the digital ID migration.
Bitok, who was addressing the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) at Waumini House after a call to clarify the reports, downplayed the assertions as smear business rivalry by the international firms unhappy with the government’s decision to localize the project.
“The propaganda that we are inserting chips into babies was fuelled by them (vendors) as a result of the government’s refusal to take them up on this project,” he stated.
“Some have wanted to take the Maisha Namba from the ground but we declined their proposal on the basis that this is Kenyan ID and process and we already have a foundational ID. Maisha Namba is just an upgrade.”
Prof. Bitok defended the decision to consider homegrown IT solutions in the digital migration to concerns over data protection and integrity and thus foreign firms could not be entrusted to undertake the project.
He said that although there has been competing pressure from leading global technology firms for partnerships on digital ID, the government prefers to improve on the existing digital foundation using local experts.
According to Bitok, the decision to go local was also borne out of a deliberate policy to promote local enterprises in general and techie firms in particular, a position that has apparently upset global digital technology giants.
KCCB, which brings together 26 bishops, had raised concerns over the implant claims and other grey areas surrounding the digital ID and urged the government to shed light on the matter.
The bishops who spoke in Nakuru also called for more public participation and stakeholders’ involvement in the digital ID rollout.
“Knowledge is power and there is a need to continuously share information with the public to dispel the misinformation out in the public. It is imperative that continuity and diversity in communicating the right information to the public on the project is employed,” said Bishop Anthony Muheria, the Archbishop of Nyeri.
KCCB Chairman and Archbishop of Mombasa dioceses Martin Kivuva also urged the government to ensure the process was transparent and to make relevant information easily available.
The PS, in a rejoinder, reassured that over 500 public participation and stakeholder forums have been undertaken so far with several others lined up across the country in the coming days.