Qn. Can you give us an update on the National ID project?
It is going on very well. It is a project that is being implemented under a multi-sectoral approach that brings together all agencies that are ordinarily involved in citizen registration. These include the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), which registers births and deaths, Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) which registers people for census purposes, the Electoral Commission for which registers voters.
Government asked all these agencies are involved in citizen registration to come together, pool resources and register citizens once and for all such that people are saved time and money that is normally incurred in multiple registration exercises.
A few months ago, we placed an advert in the papers for citizens to come and work in the project. There were different jobs like citizenship verification officers, machine operators, district IT officers. And we got a very high turn up of applicants (over 10,000). We finished the interviews and the selection process is ongoing.
Qn. What stage are you now?
Now we are at training. We have finished the first phase of training of trainers. It involved 30 people who will then train 250, who will in turn train other 5000. so it is going to trickle down to the very last people who will be involved in the exercise. The training will be on a number of issues, I.e how to use the equipment how to verify who a citizen is.
We are also going to be training the regional and district IT personnel. We are also upgrading our kits. We had the old kits that were reading one finger at a time. But we have added more modern machines that can read four fingers at the same time. This will shorten the time spent at registration centres. We are also bringing in personalisation machines – which we know as machines that process the IDs.
We are at the last stage of this training exercise before we go out for the actual enrolment exercise that will start in early April 2014. This is registration of citizens will take place at all parishes at ago at the same time. Enrolment will last for four months, after which we shall comeback to process the IDs and after four months, we shall go back to sub-counties to give out the cards.
The registration exercise will take place at all the parishes in the country in what we call a mass enrolment exercise. The process will enrol all Ugandans from the age of 16 years.
We are saying 16 years and above because these cards will also be used during the electoral process 2016. Without this card, no one will be allowed to vote. Remember this card is machine readable and it is biometrically enhanced. It has your facial features, finger prints and conforms to the International Civil Aviation (ICAO) standards. So this card is accepted world wide.
We know that citizens who 16 years old today, will be 18 in 2016 and may want to vote. They will be able to use this card.
Qn. How will you ensure that children under 16 do not register for purposes of influencing the election turn out?
First of all, we are using UBOS statistics, they have given us statistics that show that 16 year olds and above are 18 million people today. That is one fall back position. Again, we are saying that if you’re coming at the registration centre, come with something that identifies you. It could be your birth certificate, student ID so that we can be able to confirm your .
Nevertheless, there will another exercise in the near future after this one is completed, where we shall register those aged below 16 years as well as those in the diaspora and the alien.
So continuous enrolment will be done at the sub-counties. If you are a Ugandan from the diaspora, in the first 3 months after coming back, you can go to the sub-counties and register. But do not forget that our partners URSB normally register births, deaths and marriages.
So when a child is born lets say three years from now, that child will be given a unique identification number that is unique to him/her but will not get a National ID until h/she clocks 18. Remember, minors are not supposed to carry a card. So even those who are 16 years that we’re going to register in the initial exercise, will only get their cards when they are 18.
Remember that the National Ids are only issued to Ugandans. If we find out that this card was issued to you in error, the directorate of citizenship can withdraw that card such that it cannot be used again.
Qn. Will it therefore mean that EC will take over the process after you?
EC will need a register for elections and the most credible register is going to be given to them by the National Identity Card project. Of course, for us, we’re particular, we are going to take facial features, finger prints and we’re filing in a form that asks the names of your mother, village and where you would like to vote from. It is that register that they will in turn use during the voting process.
Now at a certain point in the near future, we shall pull out of this and let the EC take over because the law requires EC not to confuse the public with multiple registration. So we shall pull back, let the EC carry out its activities like voters register update, voting and after that process is completed, we shall move back into the system.
The Constitution says that the first 30 days of the last 90 days of a leader being in office, that is when the electoral process ends but also the time a new electoral process begins. So we must pull out to allow the new electoral process to start.
Qn. How are you doing the procurement exercise. Are you using the Ushs 200 billions that was initially allocated for the project?
I must make this clear. The old kits that we bought in the previous exercise are still there and were used during the 2010 electoral exercise. But because of kit upgrade, we’ve had to bring in other machines. The new kits will support the old ones. Remember every kit has a laptop, a charger, battery, camera, fingerprint scanner and a manual paper scanner to allow us keep all the records.
We shall transfer information from the parish to the sub-county to district and then to the centre using the internet. We shall also have flash disks to make sure that we do not lose information.
Qn. It must have cost a lot of money to upgrade the kits.
It is the cost of having a credible national ID system.
Qn. How much did it cost?
About 285 billion shillings for the entire process. But that is the cost of having security for the country and that is the cost of having reliable information about the population and be able to plan for it. I should add that it is the cost of having citizens to be able to freely travel from Kenya and Rwanda or Uganda by simply using a National ID card.
As you are aware, starting Jan 2014, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda agreed to use a national identity card as a travel document. In fact presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Paul Kagame used their Ids recently when they came here for a summit. I look at the Ushs 200bn in terms of all the benefits the cards are going to bring us.
Previously, if you wanted a passport, you would be required to obtain a recommendation letter from the LC1, then the sub-county and then the RDC. But now, all you will have to present is the your National ID and say I have come for my passport, here is my card.
Qn. Will it reduce the cost of obtaining the passport?
No but it will save you time and money going to the LCs where they may ask for the stamp fees etc. It will save you time if you’re trying to obtain a driving permit because all you will present will be your ID and they will be able to get your details by simply retrieving information from your card. There will be sharing of information by different agencies but under the protection of the law. I can assure you that citizen data going to be very safe.
Qn. When and how will you create publicity for the exercise?
We’ve delaying a bit but we are soon starting. We shall be all over in the print and electronic media, bill boards, mobile public address systems.
Very soon, we are going to start district workshops. We’ve met different groups of people. We’ve also met the inter-religious council including the bishops and sheikhs.
We’ve also met political parties under their forum, the National Consultative Forum. We’ve told them about this process and we’ve had a very constructive engagement.
We have met the Uganda Bankers Association, who are going to use this data. They have told us that there are 5 million accounts in Uganda, which is very small compared to other countries in the region. We hope that by the end of the process, they can get 18 million accounts.
And it will make the process of opening an account or even securing a loan easier. At the end of this process, there will be enhanced trust by the banking sector in the population.
We have also heard engagements with leaders from all the 17 regions and sub-regions of Uganda and in the very near future, we are going to meet district leaders as part of the sensitization.
Qn. Will the mass enrolment replace other registration exercises like the census?
No. It will not because the census goes beyond registering citizens and takes into account the population characteristics such as how many chickens you have, the type of house you live in to assess standards of living. But we are working in partnership with UBOS because they will also be using the information that we shall collect.
The most important thing about this process is that it is non-partisan, non sectarian and non-discriminative. We don’t ask you for your political party or your religion. All we want to know is; Are you Ugandan? and if yes, please come and register for your card.
Qn. Have you gotten any reservations from certain groups of the population such as political parties?
No. Political parties are very supportive of this process because they want these IDs. Even some cults which were fearful of registering because for them, a number is satanic, realised that even the birth of Jesus was registered. We are getting some kind of smooth flow.