12 February 2019

Africa: Kagame Makes Case for Digital Identity

Photo: New Times
President Kagame speaks at a “High-Level Lunch on Digital Transformation in Africa” on the sidelines of the 32nd Ordinary Session of the African Union in Addis Ababa.

President Paul Kagame has backed the on-going efforts by the African Union (AU) to further accelerate the adoption of digital identities, saying this would shore up citizen inclusion in the global economy.

He was speaking on Monday at a "High-Level Lunch on Digital Transformation in Africa" on the sidelines of the 32nd Ordinary Session of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Kagame said that digital identity is the start of a long and valuable chain of capabilities that make citizens better able to participate productively in the regional and global economy.

Delegates at the meeting in Addis-Ababa yesterday. Village Urugwiro.

He, however, noted that digital systems can only function well when they are trusted.

"Information must be protected from unauthorised access. It should be clear who owns the data that people generate and how it will be used," he said, adding that different digital platforms must also be able to seamlessly communicate with each other.

"Otherwise, we are merely rebuilding the same fragmentation in the cloud that we have been working to transcend here on the ground in the African Union. That is why working together to design common standards and guidelines, that serve Africa's unique needs, is as important for e-government, as it is for e-commerce," he added.

The outgoing Chairperson of the African Union had prior emphasised that much as the future of the global economy is digital, Africa critically needed different kinds of physical infrastructure if it was going to fully embark on the digitalisation journey.

"In this case, e-government is a powerful tool for improving both the quality and accessibility of government services. In Rwanda, we have used the Irembo platform to make many public records available online, such as land titles, birth certificates, visas, driver's licences, national ID, and even mountain gorilla trekking permits," he noted.

Irembo is the first online portal that enables citizens to access government services without need to walk to physical offices. It is being implemented by the government of Rwanda in partnership with RwandaOnline, a local technology company.

The platform now allows Rwandans to access more than 80 services online. The platform has grown from allowing citizens to get online services to provide digital certificates.

Currently, different countries are implementing the concept of digital identity. In countries like India, Japan, and Estonia which leads EU, citizens have digital identities which they use to access various government services, financial services, healthcare, and transportation, among others.

At the meeting, Kagame recognised the presence of Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, saying there was a clear willingness by Estonia to collaborate productively with the continent, especially in digitalisation.

Earlier, President Kagame had chaired the Smart Africa board meeting, where he updated the participants that the Smart Africa Alliance had grown to 22 member states with a total market of over 600 million people.

At the meeting, Lacina Kone from Côte d'Ivoire was appointed as the new Director General of the Smart Africa Secretariat, replacing Hamadoun Touré, a Malian native, who had served the secretariat for about three years.

Meanwhile, President Kagame held talks with President Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia, Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique, and newly elected President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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