How Safe Is Your National ID Data With Government? Top story

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In short
Abdul Nsubuga, a technocrat at the National ID registration headquarters in Kololo says they are standing at 15.2 million registered Ugandans and that figure is what they have at their servers in Kololo. He explains that the research firm was simply estimating he says in the first three months, they had registered up to 14.8 million Ugandans and with the remaining time, they have been able to add an extra 400,000 people.

I queued up behind two men at the tuck of the police post at Acacia Mall along the acacia Avenue. Two men - all unidentified - scribbled onto papers and probed the man ahead of the queue, the other man, also unidentified sat behind a set of gadgets entering what looked like details into the computer.
 
The national Identification exercise was entering its 6th month and an estimated 18 million Ugandans had undergone the process I was about to undertake. The enrolment officer, whose name I later discovered off the paper is Mukiibi Lawrence was keen on filling in the details for me as he probed.  
 
He took his pen and asked for my identification to which I presented my identification card. He read the details off the card as he filled them into the boxes. To this point, I had had no glimpse of the form neither had there been an explanation of what was required of me.
 
The form was then handed to the data entrant who then fixed my details into the laptop and took a photo of me, my finger prints were scanned and my signature taken and in 19 minutes, I had surrendered all my personal data to the government. This data, at the close of the registration day would be transferred to a memory stick, encrypted and transported to the main servers at Kololo Independence grounds.
 
Kololo independence grounds is now no longer a simple monument ground for celebrations, it is the site that hosts data of over 18 million Ugandans collected from 8,000 parishes countrywide.
 
The servers are cached inside the rooms at the grounds and carefully guarded by soldiers from the Uganda People's defence Forces and Military Police. While the perceived protection of the place has created a security mechanism, the government is yet to make citizens understand that their data is safe with them.
 
The Numbers Game
 
Research World International (RWI), a reputable research firm was the first among many to punch holes into the government data collection and storage. In their latest research, RWI believes that government could have registered 5 million less Ugandans than they set out to register. In the explanation that was  mathematically arrived at, if all the 8000 parishes had working machines, and each person registered took  17.5 minutes, over the 101 days that the registration was carried out it would only be possible to register 14 million people which would be 4 million less than what Aronda Nyakairima suggested as the target figure. The research further adds that if all equipment that was non - functional is added to the equation, the number will be slightly lower than 14 million and lie at around 9 million people.
 
Abdul Nsubuga, a technocrat at the National ID registration headquarters in Kololo says they are standing at 15.2 million registered Ugandans and that figure is what they have at their servers in Kololo. He explains that the research firm was simply estimating he says in the first three months, they had registered up to 14.8 million Ugandans and with the remaining time, they have been able to add an extra 400,000 people.
 
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Aronda, had earlier told parliament that the government was registering 1.2 million Ugandans weekly under the exercise.
 
What however makes RWI's argument stronger is that of the observed stations by the research firm, only 64% of the set out machines were functional, the centres averagely opened for two hours less than the government required 10 hours and close to 12% of the registration staff were missing from the 8000 parishes. These deficiencies cast doubt on the government figure.
 
Data Security
 
What perhaps has started to worry citizens who volunteered information for the ID registration process is the security of information passed on to the government. The data collected at the parishes was encrypted and sent to Kololo, some by transportation and some by electronic transmission. 55% of the data collected in the process was saved onto flash disks that are still at the Kololo office. 30 % was saved onto a computer, 24 % was saved in box files  and another 2% of the data was mailed electronically to the Kololo offices.
 
Asked on how secure the data was, Nsubuga said disclosing that information would prejudice national security but insisted they correctly collected the data and sent it to the servers at Kololo. He said the mechanisms used left ‘no room for error' in the process.
 
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Patrick Wakida, the lead researcher told URN that a proper judgement on the security of data can only be gotten if government opens the process up for interested parties to observe, he adds that in case that fails, citizens can wait to receive their ID's and find out if their data was properly handled. 
 
At my registration point, the data handler closed his desk at 4:30pm and inserted a flash disk into the computer to copy off the data, after that he jumped onto a motorcycle which I followed closely until he got to Kololo. At the Kololo ground, the data handler would submit his name and card before being allowed into the inside of the data storage office, a place I was prohibited from going to.
 
If the process goes as planned, the government will screen through the data I provided to them and share it with other government agencies like the electoral commission, the UPDF, Uganda Police Force, UBOS and PPDA before issuing to me a national Identification number and eventually a national identity card.
 
The card and number will certify my citizenship and also the card will be used for travel across the region.

 

About the author

Raymond Mujuni
Raymond Mujuni is a URN journalist based in Kampala. Mujuni has been a URN staff member since 2013.

Presently a Law student at Makerere University, Kampala, Mujuni started out as a freelancer for URN in 2012.

Mujuni is an investigative journalist, especially interested in Security, Science and Technology. An avid sports fan, Mujuni volunteers with the charity organisation 40 Days/40 Smiles.