Data silos hurting digital transformation in Africa

Government departments have been accused of poor handling of citizen data. Could a centralised, standard citizen database be the cure?

The Kenyan government is readying itself to collect citizen data for a new e-register. According to the government the new database will enable provision of more efficient services to the masses.

The system, named National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), will capture biodata including name, identification number, biometric data, citizenship and a digital photo.

The national e-register is seen as a positive move in digitising government services. However, the announcement has been preceded by other digital initiatives, still being run by the government, that hold redundant citizen data.

The National Transport and Safety Association (NTSA) is currently issuing a driving license fitted with a microchip that will hold drivers' information including their biometrics. In addition to this, digital number plates are already being rolled out, holding overlapping information. The same transport association has also introduced the third party license sticker, a physical sticker that car owners place on their vehicles that holds similar car information.

Meanwhile, the immigration department is also issuing new generation e-passports. The requirements of the new passports include identification card numbers, birth certificates and biodata among other documents. Other government institutions, like the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), take in similar data that not only slows down government services but increases the cost of administration for both citizens and the government.

Duplication of data, whether stored digitally or otherwise, can prove ineffective in churning out government services such as registration of medical health services by government, land ownership identification and even business registration.

For the government, ICT expenditure tends to differ from one department to the other since there is no unified procurement system. This could also lead to similar data being stored in different systems that might not blend well. 

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