No need for Census after Huduma Namba registration

Statistics from the government show that tens of millions have so far registered for the infamous Huduma Namba even as the registration exercise draws to a close, after almost 45 days marred with rumors, threats, uncertainties and lack of proper public engagement over the issue from authorities.

The number, which is a unique identification numerical code, is generated to allow one to access government services. This number will be generated from Kenyans personal data captured in biometric kits. It is a consequence of the initiation of the National Integrated Identity Management System which has a purpose of creating a central master population database that will be the single source of truth on a person’s identity.

Looking at the amount of information being collected during this exercise; it goes without saying that by the end of the data cleaning process the Government will have a huge database of information on almost all citizens of this country. The fact that the registration will also continue way past the mass registration period means that even after the end of the official phase citizens will continue registering for the number. It has not left behind toddlers or children of school-going age meaning the data reservoir will be rich and varied.

In August 2019 the country will be treated to another mass activity in the name of the National Population census which will be spearheaded by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) on behalf of the Government. Various reasons have been given as to why the census will be conducted in August, key among them being that schools will be closed. This notwithstanding the fact that Huduma Namba registration also targeted the same period in April to maximize on the number of participants per household.

The census will involve Cartographic Mapping, which is a demarcation of the whole country into smaller units referred to as Enumeration Areas (EAs) with each having an average of 100 households. Among the various categories of data targeted for collection during the census includes Population Characteristics, Forms and severity of disability, Education, Labour Force, ICT and Agriculture. It will be conducted by a strong workforce comprising of 135,000 Enumerators, 27,00 Content Supervisors and 2,700 ICT Officers. Training of field census personnel is set to be carried out in a cascaded manner beginning July 2019.

The two mega government programs are an exemplification of how public resources are misused through duplication of activities and initiatives. One loudly wonders why the Huduma Namba registration, which cost 6 billion shillings, could not be crafted in such a manner that it would encompass the additional aspects anticipated to be captured by the census exercise. The count, which will this time be conducted on the night of 24/25th August, is estimated to cost 18 billion shillings. While both programs can be said to provide thousands of jobs to the youth which is a positive, a lot also needs to be said about the financial burden these replicating initiatives are placing on the country’s economy especially when it is reeling under mismanagement in the name of the effects of foreign debt on Kenya’s financial resources.

With the highly volatile nature of Kenyan politics especially relating to resource allocation and distribution, a substantial difference in citizen numbers between the census and Huduma Namba could trigger a protracted crisis that could be devastating for the country. This is because the data from the census will eventually inform resource allocation and boundaries review. Politically, it is the platform from which the country’s political leadership will gauge their ethnic strength.

Running two analogous programs intended to acquire almost identical data is not the best measure of prudent utilization of public resources. This is so especially given that in both processes the target population, citizens, and the lead research personnel, government, remain the same.

Simon Mwangi is Communications Specialist

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