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Kenya to introduce digital signatures for online services

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Kenya Revenue Authority headquarters in Nairobi. Companies and Individuals using Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) online services to file tax returns or apply for Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) will from November be required to acquire electronic signatures before they are allowed to transact.   Photo/FILE.

Kenya Revenue Authority headquarters in Nairobi. Companies and Individuals using Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) online services to file tax returns or apply for Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) will from November be required to acquire electronic signatures before they are allowed to transact. Photo/FILE.   Nation Media Group

By Okuttah Mark

Posted  Thursday, March 21  2013 at  12:55

Companies and Individuals using Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) online services to file tax returns or apply for Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) will from November be required to acquire electronic signatures before they are allowed to transact.

This comes as the government moves to introduce a National Identification Number (NID) which help identify the transaction parties, confirm whether the transaction has been charged and prove the fact of the transaction.

The NID is an electronic signature which the government says will secure online transactions and boost e-commerce.

The government has already contracted a Korean technology company Samsung SDS to put up the infrastructure which should be ready by October after which a pilot phase of the implementation kicks at the KRA before being scaled up to other government agencies and ministries.

The government has not arrived at the amount companies and individuals will be required to acquire the NID saying it is a matter still under discussion.

Francis Mwaura, a senior assistant director at the directorate of e-government said what the introduction of NID means is that those applying for KRA online services for instance tax returns and PIN certificates will have to apply for digital signatures before they are allowed to transact.

“As the government moves to automate and digitize its records, e-government will handle a lot of sensitive data, and this calls for security of these records”, said Mr Mwaura

The Korean firm will set up an online identity and verification system popularly known as Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) where each citizen will be issued with a unique online identity (digital certificate) that will be required whenever they take part in online transactions.

Samsung SDS Vice President, Sungwon Han, said internet users have to struggle with trade-off between convenience and security and that is why PKI is crucial at this time.

“As countries all over the world are making progress in e-government, all offline activities are being changed into online ones like e-commerce, e-banking, e-procurement and e-bidding through the internet, and that why securing the platforms is key” said Han during a stakeholder’s conference held in Nairobi Wednesday.

Evans Kahuthu, Project Manager Information Security at the Kenya ICT Board said interested individuals will apply for a digital certificate using their name and ID number and later called in for a face-to-face authentication process by the Accredited Certificate Authority.

Following the verification process, the applicants will then be authorized to download the digital signatures unique to the PC or USB which is not transferrable.

“The online certificate will be a unique Internet ID (a cryptographic key) that will facilitate access to on-line government services and to effect e-commerce (e-banking services),” said Mr Kahuthu.

Apart from KRA, other immediate beneficiaries of PKI are those that rely heavily on e-transactions and handles sensitive information like the banks , medical service providers, legal entities and government ministries like the Immigration and Lands.