Digital Identity in Rwanda: Case Study Conducted as Part of a Ten-country exploration of Socio-digital ID Systems in Parts of Africa

Rwanda started developing its modern ID system in the late 2000s with the enactment of the law governing the registration of the population and issuance of the national ID card in 2008. This law introduced two types of ID cards. The first and the most used is a plastic ID card bearing a 2D barcode on its back. The second is an integrated smart ID card with a chip. They both have a 16-digit unique number, which is currently used as a unique identifier number. While the Rwandan ID system is commendable because it satisfies the daily identification needs in the physical world today, the national ID identification number is becoming more popularly used as a key to access services and to effect transactions electronically. However, the extent to which this development is backed by an effective legal framework has not received much attention. This research report uses CIS’ Evaluation Framework to evaluate the extent to which the Rwandan digital ID system complies with international standards in the protection of the rights of data subjects. It appears that, despite the tremendous functional development of the Rwandan ID system, the legal and institutional frameworks in support of the use of digital ID in Rwanda seem to be weak. A recommendation is made to adopt specific legislation on the use of digital IDs in addition to the recent promulgation of the law on data protection and privacy to strengthen the existing framework.