The government plans to harvest DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid properties) of citizens and issue to holders new, or replacement, National Identity (ID) cards containing such genetic information.
Elements of how the scheme will run are still under discussion, but Gen David Muhoozi, the State minister for Internal Affairs, told parliamentary plenary late Thursday evening that the government will issue “smart digital” IDs going forward once the current versions expire.
The government through the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) began issuing National IDs in 2014, and the first batch expires in 2024, because each, like a passport, is valid for only 10 years.
“Expected outcomes of the exercise shall include…substitution of the (expiring) National ID cards upon expiry, and [their] upgrading … to a smart card [Electronic ID or EID] and creation of personal digital identity, upgrade of the verification system and integration of the Iris recognition biometric technology and DNA in the NIRA system,” the minister said.
DNA, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), is “a molecule inside cells that contains the genetic information responsible for the development and function of an organism … [and] allow this information to be passed from one generation to the next”.
It means harvesting citizens’ DNA en masse gives the state, or government, if it wants, the power to map out people’s biological relations in addition to declarations that ID applicants are required to make about their ancestry.
This prompted some Members of Parliament, among them Mr Abed Bwanika representing Kimaanya-Kaboneera, to question whether such data collection is not invasive.
“Do you want to profile the blood of the people of Uganda? If that so because that will be unprecedented. Do you want to keep the data of the entire population in form of DNA? Do you want to go into our privacy in our blood as government?” he said.