The East African nation of Uganda is announcing plans to begin harvesting and tracking the DNA and biometric data of its citizens under an updated version of the country’s national ID program, which will see genetic information added to the ID cards that Ugandans are legally required to obtain.
Uganda began its national ID program in 2014, giving the cards a 10-year lifespan before they reach expiration. Under plans recently announced by the nation’s government, when cards start expiring in 2024, Uganda will begin to harvest the DNA of its citizens for use in the revamped national ID program, though it isn’t clear exactly how the government plans to extract the DNA from its citizens.
In addition to information on Ugandan’s DNA profiles, the updated ID cards will feature biometric data and fingerprints, as well as information gathered from the eyes of Ugandan citizens using scan technology. All this, the government says, will help speed up the identity verification process at government offices and administrative centers, as well as assist law enforcement in their investigations. The cards are also digitized, giving the government instant access to citizens’ information via a massive national catalog.
All Ugandans over the age of 18 are legally required to obtain the ID cards and must carry them on their person to fully function within their society. Information obtained from the Ugandan Embassy in the United States confirms that “every citizen is required to register in their respective place of birth or residence to enable the process of information gathering.”
Those who don’t oblige to the government’s mission of “information gathering” will be unable to “transact business,” according to Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister General Jeje Odongo.
“Come 2024,” Odongo says, “we [will] have new national identity cards with enhanced features. We want to have a card which will be used to transact business across the board.”
Odongo says he’s also hopeful that the cards, which Ugandans are required to pay for themselves, will be a major revenue generator for the nation’s cash-strapped government, which is seen as highly corrupt by most of the developed world.
Some parliamentary politicians have opposed the government’s plan to make citizens pay for their own legally required ID cards, saying it puts the poor at a disadvantage, but their efforts have been to no avail. Additionally, pushback has begun regarding privacy concerns and constitutional violations, but government officials say they plan to move ahead with the DNA harvesting program anyways.
At current count, a whopping 4.5 million Ugandans have been reportedly unable to obtain the national ID cards rolled out in 2014, despite the program now being 8 years old. Human rights advocates say the situation has turned dire, with Ugandan citizens being refused the most vital of services. In a multitude of cases, pregnant women have been turned away from hospitals at the time of childbirth, in absence of a national ID card.