My Thoughts on The Huduma Number Process


**My philosophical thoughts are sometimes heavily structured by vocabulary and need clear thoughts when reading. I might veer off from the root story when prompted to by my emotions. For that I am sorry.**

(Fictional and humorous stories are in the "Past Stories" category)

Kenya is taking a big step as a country (as far as matters in data science are concerned) by enrolling all citizens to the NIIMS (National Integrated Identity Management System). The Huduma Number is basically a social security number that will serve as an identity number. The number also comes with a card that is powered by Mastercard that lets you pay and use for government services such as passport application, NSSF, NHIF and filing KRA tax returns.

Huduma card – Source: Kenyans Online

This process of data collection possesses a lot of pros such as helping the government to curb creation of ghost workers, maximize on tax collection and track the lineage of each citizen to prevent possible terror attacks.

The process was labeled ‘MANDATORY’ for all and so I went to get it. It would be an understatement if I were to say that I was overwhelmed by emotions.

The Data and Technological Aspect

When I first stepped in line to register, I had very low expectations about the outcome of the process. However, I was surprised particularly by the tablet the civil workers were using for registering. The rubber-cased tablet of about 4 X 9 inches appeared to be custom made for the data capture. As a data fanatic, I was so happy when I saw a lot of good choices of data capture.

Biometric capture device (optical fingerprint sensor) – Source:

A little rant…

The reason for my happiness was a call of joy from a time where the government chose to roll with impromptu implementation strategies. In my humble opinion, the transport mess in Nairobi commercial zone, for example, was not the best nor most effective solution that the government could have come up with. It was declared that no PSV (Public Service Vehicle) could enter the commercial zone of the city and would otherwise dissipate the traffic to the lesser populated residential and industrial area zones. The law was passed within days and would take effect without a proper time-frame for preparation. This led to possibly thousands of Kenyans walking for kilometers to reach work.

News thereafter stated that there will be a new type of public vehicles that would transport people into the commercial zones. It is months during the writing of this post with no results achieved.

Kenyans walking to town

A much greater approach would be what I call the ‘Elon’ approach. Elon Musk usually goes on camera stating bold claims to be achieved in unrealistic time-frames. The twist is that he usually lives up to his claim. The reason of his success is proper and thorough planning of future events. Similar to this, the government would have planned by using a properly planned implementation strategy then made bold claims when a high probability of success arises. On second thought, the ‘Matiang’i’ approach would be the best in Kenya – asserting authority and sticking to your contrived time-frames until its done.

The Solution.

The government would have used a phased strategy rather than a change-over strategy for purposes of experimenting on the effect of a certain class of citizens on traffic. So, a certain group of public vehicles heading to one destination would have been switched with the ‘new’ buses and its effect on traffic measured. They would have then continued with this process until the intended result.

Back to technology, the data was being captured as hard copy on paper and electronically. The data capture process was versatile taking personal information pertaining to address, family, assets, employment status and biometric data as well as facial data. If it is not too much, a picture of the paper form that was used to enter data was captured. I hope the data becomes of meaning to the government and will be protected against unauthorized access. The last thing I want is my KRA pin on Facebook.

Though the device occasionally froze and faced biometric limitations like using optical sensors that lead to unresponsive fingerprint images, it served its purpose and for the greater good I might add.

Congratuations to the makers of NIIMS but only if it was custom made in Kenya. If so, people should not undermine the capabilities of this developing nation. A credible data capture device and system made with <3 from Kenya.

The Philosophical Aspect

Irrespective of long queuing times, I quickly shifted my mood after I made friends with a couple of ordinary ‘mwananchis.’ This also gave me the platform to do my research.

Characters and Personalities

My rant on the long queue times is not over. PS. I said long time and not queues. The registration process took roughly 20 minutes to get registered. Also, whenever people are restricted for a long time, things get out of hand.

The dormant character (id) hidden within a person’s psyche, as described by Sigmund Freud’s 3 interacting agents of the psychic apparatus, start superseding the superego. Basically, the id which is the impulses forces the person to neglect moral values and act on emotion.

The Human Psyche

During the boring wait, a lady passed me and went to the front of the line. The problem was that I knew the lady. Not from a meeting or gathering but from the day before. She had waited in the same line and was attended to but partly. Thus she came to complete her registration. The problem was that the other people knew not of her situation and thought she was cutting the line. A heated argument ensued much to the neighboring police disgust. Another problem was, I could not help her.

Group 1

But that is a normal small problem and low self-esteem you might say. The matter is if it were a normal line, a few people would have joined the argument. But now, an addition of each person accounted to thirty minutes of everyone’s time. The ground for research came as I noticed the ones that appeared more quiet and introverted, led the revolution against the ‘wrong-doers’. They felt a sense of maintaining justice and spoke out of emotion without holding back.

Group 2

The extroverts grouped into two. The ones that appeared extroverted and did not socialize the whole time acted as catalysts making sure the ‘leaders’ do not run out of steam to rant about. However the extroverts who socialized with anyone on the line did not seem to care about the one who cut the line or the argument itself. This data was picked after painfully standing for three hours, it can not be made up.

I just wanted to point it out even though the dataset was small and the time was non-recurring nor long enough. Feel free to experiment whenever you run into a long-line scenario.

Collective Intelligence (Any line is self policing)

Unlike in collective intelligence where living creatures display collaboration and intelligence in mass numbers leading to a consensus, I mean random non-controlled line of people will act just as similar as a controlled line.

Collective Intelligence – Source: Cosmic People

The line-cutting incident is an example of a self policing line. The people waiting in line took authority to ensure justice. However, in the same way, they could potentially be the other people’s weed. Let’s say that the revolution starter (leader who started and fought against line cutters) cuts in his whole family to the line. The person who all naturally confided in betrayed the cause and acted unjustly. Does any one else become the next revolution starter risking possible shame and harming the relationship made out of common interest (line cutters)?

There also came a time where the line cut into two; each huduma number volunteer going to each. Before the cut, the best case scenario in my opinion would be to take each person in line at an alternating sequence rather than taking from half the line. By doing that, the line would have been divided in half without any inconvenience. But we all know it is a contrived scenario as it would never happen without mishaps. The next best thing (which the volunteer took) was to walk past silently and sit at the next station. This would cause a dilemma. Would you go to a potentially wrong station then lose your position or stay where you are and risk being in the front of the other line? Everyone would have had a deep thought on this. Risk takers would jump off while conservatives would remain.

Therefore, the line acts as a random/linear search and sort algorithm, maintaining the sorted line and dividing the line by half at random when needed.


Many have complained about unnecessary processes in between the year but I honestly believe this is a correct step to a better Kenya. Nonetheless, the timing for the process is off as it can be done during the census period. During the census period, a volunteer comes to your house to take household information and stays for about 30 minutes. To wrap this up, the census would have been a great time since it is to be conducted this year. The volunteers will have access to all citizens and for the optimal amount of time to register a whole family (30 minutes).

Despite the negative opinions expressed, I do love the current government and I would commend the new education system. Phased strategies do not work without plan such as proper curriculum development. There is no weight in rushed development. A frozen 2-6-6-3 system is no better than a faulty 8-4-4.

My Thoughts on The Huduma Number Process
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My Thoughts on The Huduma Number Process
Kenya is taking a big step as a country (as far as matters in data science are concerned) by enrolling all citizens to the NIIMS (National Integrated Identity Management System). The Huduma Number is basically a social security number that will serve as an identity number.
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Mark Gacoka Website
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