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South Africa’s government urged to make digital identity development a priority

South Africa’s government urged to make digital identity development a priority

A report commissioned by financial services company BankservAfrica and conducted by accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has called on the government of South Africa to prioritize policies that give room for the development of digital identity.

Titled ‘Digital Identity – A South African Journey,’ the report examines South Africa’s digital identity story and outlines the experience, to date, with a community of experts from the country’s leading financial services institutions, fintechs as well as actors from the payments industry.

“For the benefits to be realized and the impact on the economy to take full effect, the digital identity policy at government level and the development of integrated solutions by businesses need to be a high priority for all stakeholders,” a portion of the 14-page report notes.

“The time has come for consumers, investors and the private and public sectors to work collectively to achieve the common goal of enabling a robust, secure and trusted digital identity for South Africa. It has the potential to generate economic value as well as resolve challenges such as inclusion,” another section reads.

Commenting on the potential of digital identity in driving inclusion in South Africa, Martin Grunewald, Chief Business Officer at BankservAfrica, said: “Studies show that over a billion people globally in low- and middle-income countries do not have any form of legally recognized identification. In South Africa, we can see the hard-hitting impact of limited access to essential services from government benefits to financial services, education and other critical services.

“By driving one conversation around developing a community wide digital identity that citizens know and trust, we can build a more inclusive, digital economy and create the change needed at a societal level.”

While the report highlights the potential benefits of digital identity to the citizens, government and economy of South Africa, it equally proposes a new trajectory for the country’s way forward for digital identity.

“In the report, we explore the building blocks and the critical success factors needed to champion and mobilize a Digital Identity Programme that is aligned to the South African Reserve Bank’s Vision 2025 for achieving the goal of financial inclusion and readies the country for the imminent Fourth Industrial Revolution,” said Grunewald.

“Armed with insights and recommendations from the industry, we are ready to embark on our next chapter in South Africa’s Digital Identity story. The invitation is open to the community to join us in unlocking the full potential of a Digital Identity future.”

Last year, South Africa’s government approved the establishment of an integrated biometric database with the aim of expanding the country’s digital identity, and simplify service delivery.

A report by Yoti Digital Identity Fellow Tshepo Magoma found rising fraud rates within the Smart ID system in part due to the lack of tools for verifying ID.

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