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Failures in digital ID: Yoti Fellows on South Africa, Argentina, India

Failures in digital ID: Yoti Fellows on South Africa, Argentina, India

The first three Digital Identity Fellows from a fellowship scheme launched in 2019 by Yoti have submitted their final reports, highlighting several ongoing problems among identity issues in the Global South.

India: Aadhaar’s ‘mass exclusion’

Subhashish Panigrahi produced a documentary available on YouTube as well as the written report “Marginalized Aadhaar: How the world’s largest digital identification programme led to the exclusion of marginalized communities”.

Panigrahi examines what he identifies as the lack of access to information on the Aadhaar biometric ID scheme and how this has affected marginalized groups along socio-ethnic, linguistic and gender lines; the violation of human and digital rights and how these come together and “and lead to the building of technological tools of mass exclusion.”

Argentina: Digital identity among the unemployed

After having to manage her own digital identity – what could be found online about her – while unemployed, Paz Bernaldo undertook “Call Me by My Name: Identity and digital identity in Argentina”.

“My assumption was that people interacting with a wide range of organizations through digital means would maneuver their identities, enhancing, modifying, or hiding parts of themselves,” writes Bernaldo in the introduction, “And, that unlike other groups, un- and under- employed individuals do so in rather conscious ways.”

Bernaldo conducted a series of interviews with un- and underemployed people around Buenos Aires and found a complex situation of exclusion, frustration and ignorance around how to live a digital life with a digital identity and having to deal with the State through strict digital and online channels.

South Africa: Fraud and the Smart ID system

Tshepo Magoma’s report, “The effectiveness of the South African Smart ID card: Fighting digital identity fraud,” explored identity fraud within South Africa’s new Smart ID system. In what he says is the first study into the issue, Magoma found that rather than efficiently solving the problem of identity fraud, cases are growing and have accelerated during COVID-19.

“To a large extent, fraudulent activity arose from the use of fabricated IDs and the lack of tools to verify IDs and to authenticate people,” writes Magoma. He concludes that, “the Smart ID card, on its own, is not effective in the fight against identity fraud. Future solutions to this problem, that can enable verification and ease authentication, will be pivotal in fighting fraud in South Africa.”

Magoma wrote about the role of corruption in impeding South Africa’s digital ID ambitions for Biometric Update last year.

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