The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation continues its global push to support government-backed digital ID programs.
The foundation now has his sights on Kenya, where it will advise the government on that country’s “Maisha Namba” digital ID initiative which is currently under development.
According to the Kenyan Daily Post, Gates’ role in assisting the Kenyan government in its development and rollout of Maisha Namba was announced after a recent series of “closed-door meetings” with Kenyan President William Ruto.
Kenyans.co.ke reported: “The billionaire, who is known to champion GMO (genetically modified organism) foods, has met Ruto in a series of meetings since he came to power with most of the engagements shrouded in secrecy….
“The deal will connect the government to key technical experts and partners who will offer professional advice to guarantee a smooth rollout”
Rights groups and citizend have been expressing concern over the possibility of discrimination and the erosion of privacy.
The Defender reports: Alexis Hancock, director of engineering for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told The Defender that such secrecy between governments and private entities is common.
“Outside companies often pitch solutions to various governments that they can solve their problem with their product,” she said. “If governments are to implement this, the technology involved should be allowed scrutiny by the people first before anything is deployed, and delayed if it is not considered safe and equitable.”
According to Biometric Update, Maisha Namba is “expected to address different challenges such as identifying and authenticating citizens, safeguarding primary registration documents such as birth certificates and national identity cards and improving the management of social programmes and government operations.”
The identification number attached to Maisha Namba “will also be used to register for government services, including education, health insurance, tax and social security.”
But some experts said they believe the Maisha Namba program has other, unannounced, aims. Dr. Wahome Ngare, chairman of the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association, told The Defender that Maisha Namba will operate as a vaccination tracking program.
“Maisha Namba — Kiswahili for ‘life number’ — is a biometric vaccination system for newborns that will replace birth certificates and help track children from birth to 5 years of age,” Ngare said. “It will be used to monitor and ensure all children receive their vaccines.”
Ngare said the Maisha Namba trial was conducted between February and March and is now being rolled out by the government, most likely as part of Universal Health Coverage.
He attributed Gates’ involvement with Maisha Namba to the involvement of entities such as Microsoft and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
Gavi says it “helps vaccinate almost half the world’s children against deadly and debilitating infectious diseases.” It was established in 1999, with the Gates Foundation as one of its co-founders and one of its four permanent board members.
Gavi maintains a core partnership with UNICEF, the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), which includes Gavi in its list of “relevant stakeholders.”
“On a deeper level and based on my understanding, Maisha Namba and the Maisha card are part of the larger international ID2020 initiative, sponsored by Gates through Gavi and Microsoft and their failed vaccine passport,” he said.
“For this reason, the full value and pain of the digital ID system will become known when the next pandemic is announced by the World Health Organization, especially if the International Health Regulations are adopted next year,” Ngare added.
Ngare was referring to amendments to the existing International Health Regulations, currently under negotiation by WHO members alongside a proposed “pandemic treaty.”
The ID2020 Alliance previously promoted the development of digital ID and vaccine passports. Microsoft is a founding member of the ID2020 Alliance, as are Gavi, the Gates Foundation, the World Bank, Accenture and the Rockefeller Foundation.
“If all goes according to plan, Bill Gates will not only inject billions of Africans with his mRNA vaccines,” Ngare said. “He has created a digital ID system for governments around the world to ensure nobody misses their vaccines and that those who refuse vaccination can be restricted from traveling or from accessing government services.”