Namibia among few countries to implement digital IDs
By Lahja Nashuuta
Windhoek – Namibia is among a few countries in Africa to have digitalised the National Population Register, which is fully integrated, combining the birth, ID, marriage and death registers under one profile, Vice-President Nickey Iyambo has confirmed.
“Identity establishment and management are of paramount importance to all governments, and to all of us as individuals for the reason that legal registers, such as the National Population Register, confer legal and civil rights to those who are registered.
If our births are not registered legally, we do not legally exist, and our rights to health, education and social protection are jeopardised,” he said.
He was speaking at the opening of the ID4Africa’s 3rd Annual Conference on Government Forum on Electronic Identity in Africa that was held in Windhoek from April 26 to 28.
The Vice President, however, pointed out that for Namibia to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16.9, which calls for providing legal identities including birth registration for all by 2030, the country needed to establish a unique universally verifiable electronic identity portfolio, and also expand its National Population Registration System (NPRS).
Iyambo said this would allow for electronic transactions, inter-operability between different governmental institutions, identity verifications, data exchange, and roll out of social protection programmes.
He said such unique IT solutions would enable the government institutions to accurately verify their identity data against what is contained in the National Population Register, thereby preventing fraudulent identity portfolios.
Iyambo said the government decision to identification systems using the latest technological solutions is in line government’s 2005 e-governance policy, which is aimed at providing e-governance services to all citizens by 2020.
Close to 900 delegates from 43 African nations and 20 international development agencies attended the forum that was held under the theme “Pathways to Digital Identity”.
The objective of the annual gathering was to “share experience and establish real world best practices that set the correct expectations for what is involved in launching and sustaining successful identity programmes,” according to Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana .
Iivula-Ithana noted that Namibia was selected to host the ID4Africa annual gathering due to its exceptional achievement in terms of Civil Registration and Identity Management.
“The government of the Republic of Namibia has improved its civil registration system partly through digitalisation of all historical records and processes during the past eight years.
We are among the few African countries with an integrated civil registration and ID management system and birth and death registration rates close to 90 percent,” she said.
The minister disclosed at the conference that her ministry was working with the Ministry of Health and Social Services and the Office of the Prime Minister to introduce an electronic birth notification system.
The new e-birth notification system would be launched this month, while the ID track and trace was also showcased at the conference as the first in Africa.
The new system will notify the National Population Registration System as soon as a baby is born.
“The Namibian government relies on birth projections for the calculation of birth statistics and birth registration statistics,” she said, adding that her department aimed to ensure that the citizens’ legal identities were established immediately after birth and attached to a unique identifier.
“Currently, only 60 percent of all births occurring in Namibia are registered shortly after birth in the country while a unique identifier is only allocated at the age of 16 when the applicant applies for an ID card,” the minister said.
She said the government also had strong inter-ministerial partners with key civil registration partners such as the Ministry of Justices and the police.
ID4Africa is a multi-stakeholder movement that promotes the transparent and responsible adoption of digital identity in the service of development in Africa.
The annual conference was first held in Tanzania in 2015, followed by milestone one in Rwanda in 2016 that demonstrated the strength and sustainability of the ID4africa movement.
Iivula-Ithana said the objective of the annual gathering was to “share experiences and establish real world best practices that set the correct expectations for what is involved in launching and sustaining successful identity programmes”.
She added that the forum also considered cross border and regional identity during which international institutions, including the Africa Development Bank, lectured the delegates on the importance of developing identity schemes that interoperate among African nations to facilitate free movement and economic exchange.
Abuja, Nigeria, was announced as the host for ID4Africa 2018, along with the theme of “Harmonisation of ID Schemes”.
Nigeria was chosen due to its efforts towards providing its citizens with universal digital identity, and its continued ambitions in supporting the movement, as well as its infrastructure capacity.
Director General and CEO of Nigeria’s National Identity Management Commission Aliyu Aziz accepted the invitation to host the event.