Uganda to add iris biometrics into national IDs for enhanced security and verification

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February 15, 2024
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2 min read
Digital IDs
  • The National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) plans to add iris biometrics as an enhanced security feature for its national ID in Uganda.
  • This comes as the government prepares for a mass enrolment exercise to register or renew nearly 30 million Ugandans' expiring Identity Cards (ID). The national IDs would also serve as a travel document within the East African region.
  • The new IDs will be valid for ten years, and the enrolment exercise is expected to commence on June 1, 2024, and run until January 2025.

In June 2023, police in Kampala arrested a Kenyan woman for allegedly forging and obtaining the Ugandan national ID illegally. According to another report from 2018, the Kampala Metropolitan Police detained ten people for national ID forgery.

Consequently, the iris biometric feature will provide additional security and authentication. Other features of the new national ID cards include a detectable security element under an UltraViolet (UV) light that would make forgery and duplication of the ID difficult.

Enrolment or renewal is open to Ugandans over 16 years who do not have an ID or haven’t applied for one. However, individuals with IDs set to expire in 2024 or 2025 will be eligible for renewal. Thus, IDs that would expire after 2025 are not required to be renewed.

The  Authority issued the first batch of current IDs in 2014 and 2015, with a 10-year expiration date. The new cards have a 10-year expiration date.

NIRA is establishing mobile enrolment sites; however, those with Internet access can apply online and then proceed to a mobile enrollment site to complete the process. Enrolment and renewal are free, but express service for individuals who want to receive their card within 48 hours costs Shs50,000 ($12.9). 

However, authorities are concerned there will be delays because NIRA is not fully prepared. The gap in preparation includes no funds for recruiting registration staff and purchasing necessary systems. Failure to have the IDs ready and on time would be a threat because they are part of many verification processes.

According to a report, State Minister for Internal Affairs Gen. David Muhoozi stated there is no money to recruit registration staff. However, while the government approved a Shs300 billion ($77.5 million) supplementary budget for the process, it allocated Shs192 billion ($49.6 million).

The Minister confirmed that staff are receiving training in India on the new National Security Information System and that system procurement is underway. 

While authorities question the 10-year renewal duration, the Minister said the renewal follows the idea that the security features on the IDs degenerate with time. Also, the physical features of the individuals may change. 

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