By Hicham Saoud, Responsable BSS et digital gouvernement, Sofrecom - May 11, 2020
One billion of the planet’s inhabitants are invisible citizens. Because they do not have a legal identity, they are excluded from civic life and do not contribute to their country’s socio-economic development. Though long the “forgotten ones” in the digital revolution, they are beginning to benefit from support fostering the development, by governments, of digital identification systems. A process complex to implement, but very efficient.
Digital inclusion is considered to be based on three components: infrastructure deployment, accessibility to content and digital aptitude (People). However, the People component is often reduced to training. It de facto excludes the "invisible": the citizens of the world who are not recognized as such because their birth has not been registered and they do not have a legal identity. Recent studies have made it possible to measure the scale of the problem and to locate the areas where identification is an inclusion challenge for States.
Without a birth certificate, identity card or passport, it is impossible for these world inhabitants to exercise their rights as citizens. They lack the “open sesame” that gives access to health services, welfare, education, labor, and entrepreneurship. They are also unable to take advantage of public and private services (banking, telephone, energy). Because of this, they do not contribute to their countries’ growth. When 3.5 million of the one billion people living in Sub-Saharan Africa do not contribute to economic activity, the scope of a market seen as buoyant shrinks significantly. Seeing this, the major economic players may significantly slow down their investment plans.
Now recognized as a lever for socio-economic development, identification benefits, at the global and African level, from recent donor initiative: the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and development agencies. Their programs finance either studies or plans to deploy identity systems, produce identity cards and biometric passports. In this regard, identification is supported by:
Bolstered by this support, many digital identification projects are flourishing, particularly on the African continent. These initiatives operate on multiple levels:
To make this type of project more understandable, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has developed a holistic vision. It recommends, rather than addressing each register in a silo, building an integrated National Digital Identity System grouping three registers: Civil status, national population register and national biometric register.
The deployment of a digital identity system is a complex process not limited to the subject of digitization. While the existing offer allows States to benefit from robust, secure digital identity systems capable of protecting personal data, technology is only one aspect of the subject.
It is for this reason that Sofrecom is helping governments build a vision of their National Digital Identity System in line with that of the AfDB. Its consultants and experts work alongside them during feasibility studies covering the analysis of a large number of key issues:
The deployments to date show a rapid return on investment. A reliable digital identification system contributes to including people in health, education and economic life. It steps up the efficiency of the administrative process. It curbs fraud and losses. India is a well-known example: it took only 1.5 years before the country began saving more money than its biometric identification system cost. The country also reduced single and multiple identity fraud. Digital identification has also increased the banking penetration rate and people’s access to public and economic services, thus creating growth and wealth.
In order to form a real gateway to citizen and digital inclusion, the deployment of a digital identification project requires a certain national union: the convergence of efforts on the part of civil society, the administration, the Government and economic players. The latter can contribute to the effort by reinventing economic models: for example, by relying on PPPs. Banks and telecom operators are all the more legitimate to contribute to this major project as they are already established as trusted third parties required to collect, or even use, their customers' identity data in the context of their mission
The digital identification market in figures
This ecosystem is of interest to many economic players: banks, insurance companies, telecoms operators, energy operators, etc.