CSO calls for reform in national ID system

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CSO calls for reform in national ID system
Unwanted Witness officials during the release of the report.

Unwanted Witness, a civil society organization (CSO) that was established to respond to the gap in effective communication using various online expression  has called for reform in the national ID system.

The CSO on Monday released a study  titled "Championing an inclusive, trustworthy, and accountable approach to Uganda's ID infrastructure and the transition to a new generation ID,"  to coincide  with the forthcoming  mass registration campaign for the renewal of national IDs this July.

The study scrutinizes the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA), highlighting significant shortcomings of the National Security Identification System( NSIS) and advocating for a more transparent, inclusive, and accountable identification framework.

It also raises substantial human rights concerns related to Uganda's ID infrastructure, particularly regarding privacy, financial strain, and the exclusion of marginalized populations.

"Many Ugandans face significant barriers in accessing essential services due to the current National ID system," said Freda Nalumansi-Mugambe, Research and Advocacy Lead at Unwanted Witness.

"Our analysis shows that the mandatory nature of these IDs, without viable alternatives, leads to the exclusion of many from critical activities such as healthcare, employment, and financial transactions."

Tracing the developmental trajectory of NSIS, the study  outlines its obstacles and progress.

It critically evaluates NIRA's effectiveness in citizen registration and data consolidation, expressing concerns over financial burdens and potential exclusion of vulnerable groups.

"Privacy concerns are at the forefront of our findings," emphasized Anthony Odur, one of the main researchers.

"NIRA's failure to comply with Uganda's Data Protection Laws, such as conducting a Data Protection Impact Assessment or having a privacy policy, poses significant risks to the privacy rights of citizens."

As one of the world's poorest nations, Uganda has a significant portion of its population living below the poverty line.

Unwanted Witness says the steep fixed fee of shs50,000/- ($13.78 USD) for ID replacement imposes a heavy financial burden, especially compared to neighboring countries with lower fees.

The NGO however says the  recent announcement waiving ID renewal fees is a positive step, yet the high casts for replacement and error correction remain a challenge for the average Ugandan.

The study  presents a comparative analysis of ID replacement fees in neighboring countries, highlighting the disproportionate financial burden on Ugandans.

It also recommends urgent reforms to o enhance the inclusivity and affordability of the National ID system, emphasizing the need for a more equitable and human rights-respecting approach.

Unwanted Witness calls on stakeholders, policymakers, and the Ugandan government to prioritize reforms ensuring the National ID system is inclusive, trustworthy, and accountable.

“This involves addressing privacy concerns, reducing financial burdens, and ensuring no Ugandan is excluded from essential services due to lack of an ID.”


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