Yoti announces digital identity Fellowship winners as researchers warn of discrimination risks

The winners of the Yoti Fellowship Programme have been selected, and will spend a year working on digital identity and identity-related issues local to South Africa, Argentina, and India, the company announced.

South African researcher Tshepo Magoma will study the effectiveness of the country’s digital identity ecosystem in fighting fraud, and consider the national digital identity system from a human rights perspective, making proposals for safeguards and recommendations. Chilean development practitioner Paz Bernaldo will consider what digital identity and identity in general means to unemployed and under-employed people receiving support from public job centers and local labor NGOs in Gran Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata, Argentina. Indian digital storyteller, researcher, and documentary filmmaker Subhashish Panigrahi will amplify challenges and opportunities within marginalized groups affected ost by Aadhaar through multimedia research.

Selected from more than 120 applicants, Yoti provides background on the experience and projects of the winners in a blog post.

“We still have a long way to go in fully understanding the implications of various digital ID initiatives, especially for the most vulnerable,” comments Selection Panel member Chrissy Martin. “The diversity of applications for the Yoti Fellowship and the issues covered, highlight just how important it is to amplify a wide range of voices, as they raised issues that are rarely researched or discussed. I’m thrilled to see how these three Fellows will contribute to the conversation and hopefully influence future policy decisions not only in their country, but globally.”

Experts are warning meanwhile that providing people with digital identity could potentially leave them open to discrimination. TechXplore reports that a study by researchers at the University of Exeter Law School warns that providing digital identity to persecuted groups like the Rohingya in Myanmar could enable their persecutors to more easily discriminate against them.

Lead researcher Dr. Ana Beduschi says technology cannot protect human rights or prevent discrimination by itself.

Depending on how digital identity technologies are designed and used, they may also hinder the rights of those that they intend to benefit. Having a digital identity may make people without legal documentation more visible and therefore less vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. However, it may also present a risk for their safety. If the information falls into the wrong hands, it may facilitate persecution by authorities targeting individuals based on their ethnicity,” Beduschi says.

“Giving people a digital identity will only help protect their human rights if those who provide it mitigate any risks of potential discrimination and promote high standards of privacy and data protection.”

The researchers also warn that reliance on technology such as biometrics could lead to indirect discrimination, as biometric data collected from older individuals is often not good enough quality, which could lead to obstacles in using digital identity or accessing services.

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