Why Kenya’s Much Awaited Smart Driver’s Licence May Suffer a Still-birth


Lets face it, this is not the first time however the government has tried to digitize the notorious transport sector and failed miserably.

Kenyan motorists will from next month be required to possess new digital driving licenses and pay instant fines on the spot according to the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA).

The second generation smart driving licenses which will be the size of a standard debit card will come embedded with a secure computer chip containing the holders information, which is only readable using special electronic gadgets owned and managed by NTSA.

The smart licenses have a payment wallet that enables traffic officers to collect fines from motorists via a gadget” NTSA director general Francis Meja said at the sidelines of a CEO’s forum hosted by Vision 2030 secretariat board.

“When in place, the smart driving license will enable the government to capture the driving history of all drivers and improve enforcement of traffic laws” Mr. Meja added.

Upon committing minor traffic offences like speeding, riding motorcycles without protective gear, failure to fasten seat belts and pedestrians blocking free passage of car among other offences, one will be subjected to instant fine.

The penalties range between  $5 (KSh. 500) and $100.

This is not the first time however the government has tried to digitize the notorious transport sector and failed miserably. In 2014 government announced plans to introduce the cashless system for the transport sector to no avail.

Since then little has changed to convince Kenyans and analysts alike the same fate would not met this new government toy.

1. Kenyan ‘Corrupt’ Cops Will Never Have It

It is a fact that Kenyan roads are one of the most corrupt in the world, the first thing the smart licences seeks to do is eradicate corruption on the Kenyan roads. As we all know it, corruption always fights back and I am afraid the smart licences is doomed to fail because the very people charged with enforcing it are direct beneficiaries of the same.
Cops and their seniors are the biggest losers should the digital driving license come into effect and therefore they are the biggest saboteurs of the same.

2. Lack Of Capacity

NTSA requires a massive back up system to process millions of digital driving licenses daily and save the same data as evidence for future prosecutions.

So far the government body has not come out to reveal what kind of investment and systems they have in place for this exercise.

Brenda Nyokabi, a freelance software programmer based in Nairobi while commending NTSA for such a noble idea,  however wonders in this age of hacking and privacy issues how the slow to adopt government will fare.

“It is commendable that the NTSA is taking a bold move to use Electronic Driver’s License to take control of Kenyan Roads and ensure safety. This kind of system will eventually be able to improved driver accountability, reduces administrative fraud and identity theft. But as a developer my biggest concern is on data privacy and security. Any kind of technology is susceptible to hacking. How is this going to be handled?” she poses.

According to the Matatu Owners Association (MOA) there are 80,000 PSVs on different routes in Nairobi operating daily not to mention private vehicles, is NTSA systems able to handle this number without crashing?

Nyokabi reckons it would have been wise for the government to first carry out a pilot programme before carrying out the countrywide exercise  at least to save the taxpayers the much needed resources.

3. Lack Of Awareness

NTSA hopes to begin using the card from next month; I am sure anyone who did not watch last night evening news and they are not active users of social media as in the case of most folks upcountry is completely unaware of the new directive.

NTSA hopes to crack down on minor traffic offenders and pedestrians have not been spared either, they can in an instant be slapped with a fine for even blocking drive ways, therefore has NTSA done enough awareness on the likely consequences of the smart license adoption.

“NTSA should try to build awareness on what this would mean to a normal mwanainchi and emphasize on the cons and pros and gauge how receptive Kenyans are to kind of system before deployment.” Nyokabi added.

The first rule of business before introducing any goods and services is to do enough awareness campaign and by that I mean adequate consultations with all the parties likely to be affected by the move.

Matatu Owners Association (MOA) cited lack of consultation as the reason why the much touted cashless system government tried to roll out failed.

It is hard to believe the same has changed.

‘Boda Boda’ riders in Kenya. (nairobidigest)


  • Written By: George Tubei

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