Source: Emmanuel Ntirenganya/The News Times

Rwanda plans to issue digital identity (ID) cards within three years to allow residents to use such identification documents stored in their phones, and replace the current physical IDs, the Minister of ICT and Innovation has said.

Parliament has already adopted the relevance of the draft law governing population registration in the national system of single digital identity. The draft bill will be analysed by the Lower House’s responsible standing committee.

Paula Ingabire, told lawmakers that Rwanda signed a financing agreement for the $40 million for the execution of the digital ID system, but that the disbursement of the funds will be done after the law has been enacted – to pave the way for the project implementation.

She said the World Bank-funded project is for five years, adding that one year has elapsed so far, which means that the remaining period amounts to four years.

While explaining the relevance of the bill to lawmakers, Ingabire indicated digital identification of people is among other key enablers of economic development and social transformation.

Yet, she said, the existing legislation governing the registration of the population and issuance of the national identity card as amended to date, does not allow that transformation.

Different from the current situation where a person is entitled to an ID card when they are aged at least 16, the bill provides that babies will also get digital IDs. Also, biometrics (using fingerprints) will be even collected from children aged five years, compared to the at least 16 years that are required so far.

Ingabire said that, in the past years, they started taking biometrics from 16 year-olds because the technology was not advanced to enable the collection of such data on younger children, adding that the currently available technology allows that for children as young as five years.

For the digital ID, she said that they will collect biometric data for 10 fingers, compared to two fingerprints they used to collect for the existing IDs.

“Currently, when a child is born, they are given an identification number, and they are allowed to get an ID card when they turn 16. But, with this move, she/he will get an ID card immediately after birth,” she said.

Once enacted, she indicated, the law will ease the registration of people using the digital ID system.

“If we look at the biometric data, only fingerprints were collected. Now, in order to ease the process, we will be collecting biometrics in different ways in order to facilitate the authentication and verification for people who want to deliver services,” she said.

Addressing some of the identified issues

The new law, the Minister pointed out, is expected to provide solutions to a number of problems, including the situation where there is a category of population who were not catered for in terms of ID provision, such as stateless people (neither counted among foreigners nor refugees) and other undocumented people while they needed services.

Also, data relating to the identification of persons were scattered and conflicting in different databases of various institutions, which will be addressed by having the data in one single digital ID system.

Another issue is that the current law could not enable capturing and managing and authenticating people’s biometric information.

MP Aimée Sandrine Uwambaje said the digital IDs were responding well to the current development trends, and will reduce the frequent issue of physical ID loss, as well as save residents money they were spending on getting new ones.

Meanwhile, Ingabire said that it is expected the ID font face photos will be updated every five years, but indicated that the cost will not be incurred by the cardholder.

The draft law mainly covers categories of population to be registered, registrations of the new-born and nationality grantees, change of registered location, enrolment of the population into a single digital identity system, and management of a single digital identity system.

Responding to MPs’ worries about mistakes that were made while issuing the current IDs –such as misspelled names – Ingabire said that said the first job in data cleansing exercise will be to correct the mistakes that were made on current IDs with a view to ensure accuracy in the digital system.

Data in IDs

The data required in the national population registry include national identification number; name(s), gender; date of birth; place of birth; nationality; marital status; and spouse name.

Others are telephone number, if any; email address, if any; domicile address; biometrics data: front-facing photograph; full set of fingerprints, depending on the age; iris scan, depending on age; and any other biometrics data as may be determined by the Authority.

In case the biometrics data are not fully available, only obtainable biometrics data are captured in the national population registry, the bill proposes.

In the drafting processes, studies and benchmarks were done on the following foreign legislations while looking for the best practice in countries which already use digital IDs, she said. They include Estonia, Singapore; India, Philippine, Malaysia, and Canada.

Source: Emmanuel Ntirenganya/The News Times