The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is continuing its global push to support government-backed digital ID programs — this time setting its sights on Kenya, where it will advise the government on that country’s “Maisha Namba” digital ID initiative currently under development, Reclaim the Net reports.
Michael Nevradakis, Ph.D.
Children’s Health Defense
Mon, 30 Oct 2023
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.
“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 Kenyan Daily Post wrote.
“The deal will connect the government to key technical experts and partners who will offer professional advice to guarantee a smooth rollout,” Kenyans.co.ke reports.
“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.
“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.”
Gates supported biometric digital ID initiatives around the world, including the first such program, Aadhaar, launched in India in 2009. Aadhaar enrolled over 99% of all Indian adults, linking them with many public and private services. The program has generated controversy, which Gates has dismissed.
Other experts also expressed concerns similar to those of Ngare. California-based privacy attorney Greg Glaser told The Defender, “Vaccine passports were a test run for global biometric ID,” adding:
“Biometric ID is to future dystopian society as batteries are to your TV’s remote control. Without the batteries, the remote control does nothing. Without biometric ID, dystopian technology fails: social credit scores, central bank digital currencies [CBDCs], smart devices in the Internet of Things.
“All of these are rendered useless without the ability to integrate the masses into new technology systems through biometric identification.”
According to Glaser, there is a larger purpose to such efforts.
“Transhumanism is the endgame, and biometric ID is its Achilles heel,” Glaser said. “All of these things in our lives fundamentally depend on ID today: rights, citizenship status, affiliations, standing in court, accounts, privileges, services, land title and more. A person can hardly access any of the above without some form of ID, mostly meaning name but often numbers, which are increasingly linked to biometrics,” he said.
“Controlling people means controlling ID,” he added. “Even national governments are now wholly dependent on their organizational and corporate IDs.”
Similarly, Irene Polansky, a citizen who routinely participates in the National Call for Safe Technology hosted by Wired Broadband Inc. and Virginians for Safe Technology, told The Defender that COVID-19 was “a beta (compliance) test for what’s to come,” and to be wary of the touted benefits of new technologies such as digital ID.
“Otherwise, we — and our children’s lives and bodily autonomies and innate rights — and our pieces of the planet, our properties and our civil rights and our wallets — our hard-earned monies and financial means — will be collectively and tyrannically coerced and devoured to our objection or surprise,” she said.
Digital ID for newborns part of ‘vast opportunities’ Gates sees in Africa
Mark Suzman, CEO of the Gates Foundation, told Business Daily Africa that his organization will connect the Kenyan government with technical experts and partners.
“Our role is always as an adviser. We can connect the government to key technical experts and partners, but we’re very encouraged by what we see and by the President’s commitment. We have a number of specific investment support on digital identity. We actually provide it to broader platforms,” he said.
According to Business Daily Africa, such assistance to the Kenyan government is part of what the Gates Foundation sees as “vast opportunities that can be unlocked through the existence of a digital identity in Kenya.”
“This is a huge priority of President Willam Ruto, and we think very appropriately so because a strong, robust, open-source digital identity system actually becomes a platform that not only leverages financial inclusion, where Kenya is already a global leader, but can be a platform that actually drives important advances in health care, in education and other services,” Suzman said.
But the Gates Foundation is not the only global actor involved in the rollout of Maisha Namba. According to Kenya’s Capital News, the Kenyan government and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) signed a memorandum of understanding in August to support the fledgling digital ID program.
According to Reclaim the Net, “The plan envisages every newborn being assigned a Maisha Namba, which stays with them throughout their life.” Nyandarua County Deputy Commissioner Rukia Chitechi said, “The system shall be run through schools by ensuring every child born is assigned a maisha namba.”
According to Glaser, “The UN’s SDG Target 16.9 confirms that governments will be issuing everyone biometric ID by the year 2030, including babies … That means the UN is partnering with corporations and local governments to issue you and your children a biometric ID by 2030, whether you want the IDs or not.”
In a tweet, Julius Kibet Bitok, Kenya’s principal secretary for immigration and citizens services, said, “The digital identity system will provide Kenyans with a secure and reliable way to verify their identity for a variety of purposes, including accessing gov’t services, opening bank accounts, and traveling.”
“It will also help to reduce fraud and corruption, and improve efficiency,” he added.
Ngare questioned that theory. “On face value and if the government is the holder of the data and not third parties such as Microsoft or its minors, it may improve service delivery and reduce fraud as stated by government operatives,” Ngare said, adding that he doubted this would be the case.
Similarly, Hancock said, “If [digital ID is] done correctly, a factor of convenience may benefit people from having to travel long distances for renewing important documents, or issue temporary credentials as they await their official documentation. There are other methods, like ‘selective disclosure,’ where you do not have to display the entirety of your information but only what is required for a certain transaction.”
Hancock said she was concerned about how a “long-term, persistent identifier” could “be used to track people and create a surveillance state or be compromised over time by a bad actor looking to leak information tied to these unique identifiers.”
“Every time a digital ID holder uses their ID, there is an opportunity for the ID issuer and the ID verifier to gather personal data about the ID holder,” she added.
Concerns digital ID will lead to ‘permanent structure for state-level surveillance’
According to Biometric Update, “As the government seeks to win the trust and confidence of the population with regard to the Maisha Card, it has also clarified that its issuance will not be compulsory,” but will instead be accepted as proof of legal ID alongside existing identification documents.
Yet, a separate Biometric Update report states, “A two-to-three-year transition is planned, with legacy national IDs being phased out.”
Hancock said she prefers “ephemeral IDs for transactions and the ability to discard them or change them when they get compromised.” She is “also concerned about mandates around digital ID and it possibly leading to a permanent structure for state-level surveillance.”
“People should have the ability to opt-out of digital first systems and a right to paper if they are not comfortable,” Hancock said.
Similar claims regarding optionality had been made about India’s Aadhaar digital ID program, according to The Economist, which wrote, “Though Aadhaar was supposed to be optional, it is hard to function without it.”
The Kenyan government claims the implementation of Maisha Namba is also intended to bring the country into compliance with international standards on global travel as determined by the International Civil Aviation Organization and other agencies.
Maisha Namba is funded with a budget of 1 billion Kenyan shillings (approximately $6.8 million), Biometric Update reports. The program was initially set to launch on Oct. 2, according to Business Daily Africa, but its rollout was postponed on Sept. 29.
According to Reclaim the Net, Kenyan officials “stress that the new system is aimed at addressing a host of issues such as the authentication of citizens, protection of primary identification documents, improved governance of social programs and operations, and simplification of access to services such as healthcare, education, taxation, and social security,” but public concerns may have contributed to the postponed launch.
“Despite these concerns, government officials have made attempts to assure its citizens of their commitment to privacy protection and the inclusivity promised by the Maisha Namba,” Reclaim the Net added.
Glaser called into question such claims of “inclusivity.”
“‘Inclusivity’ is … a fake talking point politicians use on camera,” he said. “The reality is that biometric ID brings everyone down to the lowest common denominator of government welfare recipients … Inclusivity is political-speak for the government forcing itself on your family and treating your children like wards of the state.”
Glaser also criticized public-private partnerships. “As I researched biometric ID, I learned that governments are not at the top of the food chain. It’s actually private companies at the top — such as Microsoft, Oracle, Accenture — because they create and own the technology and they manage the data at the top.
Some Kenyans ‘very worried and suspicious’ of Gates’ endeavors in Kenya
Kenyan officials have sought to reassure the public that their personal information would be safe on the new digital platform.
Kenyan National Registration Bureau Registrar for the Kipipiri region, Joel Muchunu, said the Maisha Namba program will incorporate advanced security features, including cryptographic technology for data security, Kenya News Agency reported.
Irungu Houghton, executive director of Amnesty International, “applauded” the Maisha Namba program and the Kenyan government’s digital transformation efforts, according to Biometric Update, but “raised concerns about the safety of data that will be collected for the Maisha Namba scheme” and said it is important Kenyans are “comfortable they understand and are aware of the opportunities of this digital platform.”
Such reassurances have not convinced all Kenyans, however. According to Reclaim the Net, “There is an evident wave of skepticism,” with activists from certain regions “expressing concerns about inadequate infrastructure, unreliable network access, and privacy and civil liberties concerns.”
Some activists argued that the Maisha Namba is indistinguishable from a previous digital ID effort attempted by the Kenyan government, the Huduma Namba, according to Kenyan outlet The Star. That program was declared unconstitutional by Kenya’s High Court in October 2021, for conflicting with the country’s Data Protection Act.
Ngare said Huduma Namba “failed because [the government] intended to include DNA.”
Other activist groups, led by the Kenyan Human Rights Commission, are “calling for a stronger legislative basis” and “warn of the possibility of discrimination and the erosion of privacy,” warning that public engagement has been “lacking,” as have “procedural and legal safeguards,” Biometric Update reported.
Other activists “accused the government of backtracking on its promise to do away with vetting for persons seeking identification cards” and claimed “rogue government officials were using the vetting exercise to demand bribes,” according to The Star.
Kenyan officials claimed the country “is lagging behind” in digital implementation, “putting Kenya at risk of non-compliance with international enforcement agencies’ standards.”
Ngare said the Kenyan public at large isn’t highly familiar with Gates, but those who are familiar with him “are very worried and suspicious.” He said there isn’t extensive opposition to Maisha Namba “because at face value, it sounds like a good idea.”
“Most people don’t know the dark side of Bill Gates and his link to the depopulation agenda,” he said. “To the beneficiaries of the NGOs [non-governmental organizations] his foundation supports and some beneficiaries of his philanthropy, he is admired. To those who know the deeper undertones of the eugenics agenda, he is loathed.”
According to The Financial Times, Gates “acknowledges that digital ID could be abused,” saying that “Anything that makes the state more effective is good for the things you like the state to do, and bad for the things you don’t like the state to do.”
“But, if you believe in a state that should provide you education and should let you vote and should give you health services, there’s got to be some notion of, ‘Who are my citizens and are they eligible for this benefit?'” he added.
Ngare said that Gates’ involvement with Maisha Namba is just one of his many interests in Africa, having previously been involved with “The clandestine administration of fertility regulating Tetatus vaccines to Kenyan women in 2014-2015, facilitated by Gavi and the WHO,” which he says “is still fresh in our minds.”
“He has many interests in Africa, including health and nutrition, gender equality, disease prevention, treatment and research, water, sanitation and hygiene, agriculture and financial services for the poor,” Ngare said, adding that the Gates Foundation announced in 2022 that its African headquarters will be located in Kenya.
The Gates Foundation is also “spearheading the funding to fight HIV, tuberculosis and malaria” in Africa, Ngare said, and is “injecting more funds ‘to advance access to mRNA research and vaccine manufacturing technology that will support low- and middle-income countries’ … capacity to develop high-quality, lifesaving vaccines at scale.”
“He is heavily invested in vaccine development, production and distribution through Gavi … and makes the vaccines ‘available’ to ‘low-income countries’ at affordable or subsidized prices,” Ngare added. “The U.S. and European governments fund the vaccine development that enriches the developers and sponsors such as Gates.”
“Expanding the mRNA technology to tuberculosis, malaria and HIV would afford Gates an opportunity to develop vaccines specifically targeted at Africans,” Ngare said.
Kenyan author Nanjala Nyabola, author of “Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era is Transforming Politics in Kenya,” said “Digital identity systems will only make governments more efficient at what they are already doing,” according to The Financial Times, adding that digital IDs could be used as a tool to suppress or discriminate against certain citizens.
Polansky said digital ID technology helps facilitate “a centralized, government- and corporate-accessible database network already built into the wireless network.”
“We have to wake up many more folks with truth from the non-conspiratorial trenches. The wireless devices that folks are adamant they unequivocally require to count their steps, run their — and their children’s — lives and homes, and keep them current with society are the same devices from which society is already set up for techno-totalitarianism.”