A global first: legal empowerment efforts halt a digital ID scheme on the basis of discrimination

Last year, the Kenyan government introduced a digital ID initiative that threatened to entrench the exclusion of 5 million Muslims from society.

A new article in WIRED tells the story of how together, legal empowerment—many of who are members of our network—and the affected communities challenged the discriminatory scheme. And won, at least for now.

Dozens of countries with discriminatory regimes are currently exploring a transition to digital identity. This essay shows how legal empowerment efforts—like those in Kenya—can shift the focus from technology to equality.

We’d love to hear your reflections. What do you see the potentials and hurdles of using a legal empowerment approach to tackle discriminatory government initiatives, be them for digital ID or otherwise? What else needs to be done to prevent the uptake of exclusionary digital ID systems around the world?

Share your opinions and questions below. Change starts with discussion!

Essay authors: @lauragoodwin, @vivekmaru, @aishakhagai, @mustafa_mahmoud

Network members involved in the case:@yussuf of Haki na Sheria; @zena, @Zahra, @yasahkym of Nubian Rights Forum; and many others.


I think that a Public Interest Litigation is a useful path towards tackling discriminatory policies, regulations or legislation. This can however be buttressed with other strategies including boardroom discussions that will enable the other side to clearly understand that, this is not just a courtroom fight but that it affects people. It would also be useful to mobilize other support from other non state actors who can also enter appearance in the case either as interested parties or even interest a professional body to be an amicus curie. Use of media to highlight the issue and create general public awareness will also enhance support give a balanced view


Hi @marynjeri

I strongly agree that PIL should not be the only avenue to push for change and we need a multi-faceted approach to resolving the issue. The team working on Huduma number has tried meeting with the state actors to try and address the issue but the conversation was one-sided with the government keeping to their grounds on the issue and the litigation was aimed at letting the Judiciary be the neutral party to help the two parties resolve the issue.

I also believe that even after the ruling there is room for dialogue with the affected communities and also the interested parties though we are yet to see that happen.

On awareness, our partner Nubian Rights Forum has done well in terms of awareness on social media as it has been hard to get mainstream media spots. Please follow them on Twitter and you can also see the tweets during the case and the judgements as the tweets were live tweets.


Hello Mustafa, Very well.

I am happy to learn of the great efforts going on towards winning this case.

I will for sure follow the tweets and I will be happy and continue to read on and learn of what is happening. When and if possible, I will listen in when the case comes up.


For the time being, you can also be reading the 320 pages NIIMS judgement from the Kenya Law Reports by downloading or reading online on this link.


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