In a bid to improve road safety and crack down on dangerous drivers, the Kenyan government recently announced plans to begin rolling out a new digital driver’s license program. By using these new smart driving licenses, Director General of the National Transport and Safety Authority Francis Meja stated that officials would now be able to automatically track driving records to ensure that anyone who continually commits numerous traffic offenses faces the appropriate consequences.
Making Kenya’s Roads Safer
The new smart-card system was designed to improve road safety by ensuring that drivers face punishment for traffic violations. These digital driving licenses feature advanced security features and are essentially a biometric card that contains the person’s full driving record. By capturing driving records on these smart cards, the government can then share the records with all insurance companies. The thought is that the prospect of facing higher insurance premiums, punishments and the potential to lose their driver’s license will make motorists far less likely to commit traffic violations. In order to accomplish this, the government is relying on insurance companies to raise premiums on high-risk drivers and reward good drivers with lower premiums.
The first 200,000 digital driver’s licenses will be rolled out in two months, with an additional 300,000 smart licenses set to be released by the end of the year. The government eventually hopes to produce 6.5 million digital licenses to supply one to all of Kenya’s licensed drivers. Currently, the country is home to more than 5 million drivers, all of whom use paper driver’s licenses that are seen as extremely easy to forge. As of now, the smart licenses will be produced by the National Bank of Kenya, which was awarded the Sh2.1 billion contract by the NTSA earlier this year in March. To help facilitate the supply of the new licenses, National Bank partnered with Austria Card, a leading digital-payment provider based in Vienna.
In addition to adopting these new digital driver’s licenses, the NTSA announced that all licenses will now use a points system whereby drivers are initially issued 20 points. Any offenses that the driver commits will see points deducted, with the total number of points being based proportionally on the seriousness of the violation.
The Future of Driving is Digital
Although Kenya is set to become the first African nation to implement digital driver’s licenses, it isn’t the only place where this type of technology is being tested. In the United States, a two-year test program sponsored by the US Department of Commerce has brought digital licenses to Colorado, Idaho, Maryland, Iowa, and Washington DC. However, unlike the biometric smart-card system used in Kenya, the American system uses a special encrypted smartphone app that acts as the individual’s digital driver’s license.
Although this type of technology looks likely to work well in the United States and other more developed nations where the majority of citizens own smartphones, it is unlikely to be a viable solution in Africa. The fact that fewer Africans own smartphones means it’s likely that any other nations wishing to take advantage of digital driver’s license technology will need to rely on a system similar to the Kenyan one. In this way, it seems that many African governments will be paying close attention to Kenya. If the smart licenses do help to make roads safer, it is likely that other countries will soon follow suit and implement their own digital license systems.