Caribou Digital and ID2020 identify barriers to digital identity for women

Caribou Digital and ID2020 identify barriers to digital identity for women

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Barriers of information, access, ownership, societal expectations, and intersectionality must be overcome by women who struggle to acquire ID in the digital age, Dr. Savita Bailur and Hélène Smertnik of Caribou Digital and Devina Srivastava of ID2020 argue in a Medium article ahead of ID2020’s Annual Summit.

Noting that the World Bank estimates more than 45 percent of women in low income countries do not have a foundational ID, the authors present their findings from research in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ghana, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Uganda. They find that even in situations in which ID is supposed to be available to women, as in India’s Aadhaar system, social context often prevents them either from obtaining it in the first place, or from using it independently as intended.

The ID2020 Manifesto, developed in consultation with UNHCR, takes the universality of identity as a human right as its first principle. The report authors pose three questions at the close of each section identifying a challenge, to suggest areas for further research and investment.

Digital identity systems are supposed to forward gender equity, in many cases, but entrenched sexism and other factors such as a lack of financial independence often undermine good intentions, as a series of examples makes clear. The report authors say the barriers are interlinked, but that overcoming them is necessary to achieving the scale of identity access sought by the international development community.

“To ensure that digital ID programs truly serve women and girls, gender considerations must be examined throughout the program journey,” the report concludes. “Privacy, portability persistence and personal are necessary elements for digital identity systems to meaningfully empower and protect individuals. Achieving the ambition of digital ID depends on shifting the locus of control away from institutions and towards the individual.”

The 2019 ID2020 Summit will be held on September 19 in New York City, and will feature presentations on Good ID including members of private enterprise, governments, World Bank’s ID4D initiative, and UN agencies.

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