Kenya acts to secure e-commerce

Kenya’s government says it is well on track to setting up an online identity and verification system to secure the online environment .

The Kenyan government, through the Kenya ICT board, today held a forum with data stakeholders to educate them on what it will take to secure online transactions. Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), is the national system that the government is adopting to provide digital signature-based certification services.

Through the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), the government will set up an online identity and verification system where each citizen will be issued with a unique online identity (digital certificate) that will be required whenever they take part in online transactions. The project is being implemented by Korea technology company Samsung SDS.

“Electronic signing is the most ensuring method to help solve a lot of the on-line crimes we see such as hacking, identity theft and forgery of sensitive information. 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”, explained Evans Kahuthu, Project Manager Information Security at the Kenya ICT Board. 

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).

“Going forward, we will get into complex, sophisticated and very hard to investigate organized cybercrime. It is therefore important that the government readies itself to tackle these new challenges,” said Francis Mwaura, Senior Assistant Director, and Directorate of E-Government.

The National Identification Number (NID) will be required to help identify the transaction parties, confirm whether the transaction has been charged and prove the fact of the transaction.

“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”, added Francis Mwaura 

The project’s expected date of completion is October and will be piloted at the Kenya Revenue Authority before a roll-out to other government agencies and ministries. This will mean that those applying for KRA online services e.g tax returns and pin certificates will have to apply for digital signatures before they are allowed to transact.

“Internet users have to struggle with a trade-off between convenience and security. 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. That’s why PKI is so crucial at this time,” said Samsung SDS Vice President, Sungwon Han

PKI is a project under the Ministry of Information and Communication and is being implemented through the Kenya ICT board in partnership with CCK, Directorate of E-government and office of the president.

Immediate beneficiaries of PKI are those that rely heavily on e-transactions among them; Banks, Tax bodies (KRA), online businesses and those that hold sensitive information like Medical service providers, legal entities and government ministries like the Immigration and Lands.

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