Uganda’s tech community is not happy about NIRA’s way of doing business

NIRA Uganda
Data collectors during the National Census Exercise

NIRA, National Identification and Regulatory Authority, is yet to embrace the digital era. And the Ugandan tech community isn’t happy about that. The body that handles the National Identification Register still collects data manually. A process not only slow but prone to errors.

It all started when James “Wire” Lunghabo lost his National ID and decided to reach out to NIRA via twitter;

“I misplaced my ID and cant [sic] find it. However, I have a soft copy of the same. Please outline for me the procedure to get a new copy of my ID,” James tweeted.

In response, NIRA wrote; “Get a police letter”, then “fill in [the] replacement form [manually]”. They added that the form was “downloadable from our website or [can be] acquired from any of our offices”. After that, he had to “attach [the] bank payment receipt of 50,000/=” and “submit [it] to our office at Kololo ceremonial grounds”.


James downloaded the form and shared it with the tech community. Accompanied by the message;

“I’m now stuck. Been pondering over this process that I must go through. I have to manually fill in all the information, walk to a bank and pay [UGX] 50k, then head to Kololo [Airstrip] and submit [it]. I keep wondering, could some integration in form of MM [Mobile Money] as well as an online web form have helped facilitate this? #Shame #BigShame.”

To many, this is not new for a government MDA. Yet, others still maintain that something like this shouldn’t be happening in 2018.

TMS Ruge, one of the vocal tech community members, said that “I know this is Uganda, but come on for the love of digital!! Common sense is cheap!”

“A pdf form. Which you fill out manually, physically give to someone, to type BACK into a computer. In 2018?”

The conclusion by the tech community is that the entire process can be done online.

Kenya has already solved this problem including payment for all government services. The country’s eCitizen portal allows you to apply for Government to Citizen services. And pay for them as well via mobile money, Debit Cards and eCitizen agents. In fact, the country will be rolling out e-Passports as early as 2019.

Plus, NITA-U has an already running eCitizen portal. It already has several eGovernment services. Perhaps, this being a critical issue, should have been one of the services added already.

Last week, NITA-U released the findings of the National IT Survey 2017/18. It said that “MDAs have embraced the use of digital platforms to provide government services.” Noting that “half of them (50.7%) [are] offering e-Government services via the web.” While “19.5% [were offering] via SMS and 13% using mobile applications.”

But, the same report indicates that over 90% of MDAs still use PDF as a way of disseminating information. It also indicates that ICT workforce in MDAs forms less than 1.9% of the total.