Experts have said that rolling out a digital ID in Rwanda will ease access to public services, digital transactions, and healthcare.
The country initiated the legislative process for a digital ID last month when the Minister of ICT presented the bill to Parliament.
If things go according to plan, the government will issue digital ID cards within three years. The ID will come in two versions: a physical card with a QR code containing biometric data, and an unprinted version that uses biometrics to access the ID.
The Minister of ICT, Paula Ingabire, emphasised the importance of the digital ID system as a propeller of social and economic progress when making the proposal to members of Parliament in April.
The New Times spoke to some experts in digital ID-related matters about some of the advantages of the proposed ID. They said it would simplify access to public services and drive the digital economy.
“The proposed rollout of a digital ID in Rwanda holds significant implications for its citizens. It signifies a transformative shift towards a more efficient and secure identification system, enabling easier access to government services and facilitating digital transactions,” noted Piyush Tripathi, an experienced US-based IT professional. Tripathi has worked on several high-profile projects, including the Application Programming Interface (API), a platform that was used in New York’s Covid-19 contact tracing programme.
“It can streamline administrative processes, reduce bureaucracy, and enhance service delivery efficiency. Additionally, it can foster digital innovation, promote financial inclusion, and contribute to economic growth by facilitating digital transactions and supporting the development of digital services,” he added.
According to the bill proposed by Ingabire to the Parliament, the ID can be used for transactions and services, as it can be authenticated both online and offline.
During online authentication, data including biometrics or a random token number generated by the ID agency as a unique personal identifier can be used to validate the user’s identity.
Michael Dershem, founder and CEO of MAPay LLC, a US-based decentralised payment network solution for improving healthcare payments and data exchange through blockchain technology, said that Rwanda’s digital ID system has tremendous potential for enhancing the country’s healthcare system.
“This type of digital ID programme can be the gateway that enables companies and governments to reduce costs and empower individuals with control over their personal health information,” he said.
“With some foresight, it’s possible to provide a technology ecosystem to Rwandans with the potential to deliver business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) enterprise medical commerce, both domestically and across regions. This will enhance everything from how medical bills are handled to providing incentives around care, reducing overall costs, and bringing transparency and personal ownership of data to the country’s citizens,” he added.
Ngu Morcho, MAPay’s Advisor and Lead for Africa Market Development said that he hopes the Rwanda digital ID programme can act as a gateway to things, including cross-border payments, to enable Africans in the Diaspora and locals to trade with each other and keep the spending capital on the continent.