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Morocco, Lesotho report progress on digital ID ecosystems development

Morocco, Lesotho report progress on digital ID ecosystems development

Identity management officials in Morocco and Lesotho have explained the different stages of their efforts in the building and rollout of their respective digital identity ecosystems.

Officials from these countries presented the state of affairs of their digital ID evolution during the ‘i-On-Africa’ segment of ID4Africa’s Episode 21 Livecast event that took place on October 13, moderated by the movement’s Executive Chairman Dr. Joseph Atick. The event also included a discussion with NADRA Chairman Tariq Malik.

The exposés generally looked at how both countries are working to develop and implement their digital ID systems in order to achieve broad digital inclusion and open up space for better access to certain public services.

Morocco says digital ID plans far-advanced

Speaking for Morocco, Dr. Omar El Alami of the country’s Ministry of Interior made a detailed presentation of their national digital ID ecosystem development which, he said, is being developed with MOSIP, with Idemia as biometric solution provider.

He explained details about the new digital ID system and the various steps that have been taken since 2016 in order to develop the ecosystem and make it ready for a pilot and eventual full-scale deployment.

Giving an idea of how the system is being developed, Alami said: “The name of our project is the National Population Registry which is as an entry point for eligibility by citizens to social protection and welfare programs. Our goal is to equip ourselves with a national identification system for a target population using state-of the art technologies. To achieve this goal, we identified three important pillars. The first is the National Population Registry, the second is the Unified Social Registry, and the third is the National Registries Agency which is supposed to manage the other two.”

He added: “The National Population Registry’s role is to provide unique registration for all individuals including minors and expatriates where we collect their demographic and biometric data. This registry also offers reliable identity authentication services online and in real-time, as well as KYC services. The registry is an interoperable database of registered individuals where each individual has a digital number which is their civil and social identifier. It is reliable because it uses demographic and biometric data.”

In 2018, Alami said, the agency chose the MOSIP platform to implement the ID system, and he also cited efforts in the technological and regulatory domains aimed at setting the template for a good functioning of the system.

According to Alami, the Moroccan government is planning to begin a pilot for the new ID system by November this year, while full nationwide deployment is projected for the last quarter of 2022.

The registry, the official mentioned, offers various services including a 10-digit digital ID number, a virtual ID and a needs-based identity authentication service, as well as other components such as the legal and institutional frameworks, the technological aspect which has to do with standards and infrastructure, and the communication component.

The establishment of the legal framework ahead of beginning the implementation work was identified as an important step in the development of Morocco’s digital ID system.

New passport system boosted Lesotho’s digital ID drive

Taking the floor to present the situation in Lesotho, the team of four speakers agreed that the introduction of a new passport system for the small kingdom was what gave it traction in its digital transformation drive.

During the exchange, the genesis of the Lesotho digital identity system and how it was put in place, were elaborately discussed.

One of the speakers, Ministry of Home Affairs Principal Secretary Tumelo Raboletsi, said the digital ID system was, among other things, developed to respond to the need to replace the multiplicity of documents for ID purposes which gave room for ID fraud and crimes, fight financial exclusion and poverty, tackle government inefficiencies and bribes, as well as restore lost confidence, and provide citizens with a machine-readable national ID and passport system.

The country’s digital transformation journey which started in 2009 gained some traction with the implementation of the biometric passport system.

Divided into three phases, Lesotho’s digital ID journey started off in 2010 with the first phase of implementation ending in 2019. The second phase started last year and will run till the end of 2022, while the third phase is planned to span the period from 2023 to 2030. While the first ten years of the system saw its design, development and rollout, phase two has been about encouraging citizens to embrace the system and make use of it for different service-seeking purposes.

Cabinet, according to the presentation, took bold steps to lay a proper foundation for the system by taking a number of actions among which were broad-based consultations with key relevant stakeholders, the setting up of physical infrastructures and the appointment of personnel, as well as the putting in place of a regulatory framework, among others.

Although they have been faced with a number of challenges, significant strides have however been made in the implementation of the ID system so far.

With the strategy having been fully developed and with all infrastructure in place, the government is now looking forward to scaling up the digital ID use for improved service delivery through the linkage of the IDs with more programs and services, as well as ensure system maintenance and continuity of services. Lesotho’s government hope to achieve this in the course of the next seven years.

The way the project is being rolled out in Lesotho highlights a number of lessons such as the importance of political will from government, commitment to change, and close collaboration among all stakeholders, the speakers boasted.

On her part the Governor of the Central Bank of Lesotho, Dr. Retselisitsoe Matlanyane, talked about the coming into place of the digital ID cards and how that has improved financial inclusion and bolstered the fight against fraud and money-laundering in the financial services sector of her country.

“The ID system made it possible for us to achieve many things…we thought that if we had a digital ID system, we will be able to have users of financial services identified in a unique way…,” she said, adding that this has also contributed to the rise in digital payments with reliable identification.

“This has also gone a long way to reduce ghost beneficiaries that were in our system, and which had been a major concern for a very long time. Also, the digital ID affords us the opportunity to be innovative in our offering of financial services. We now have the ability to make end-to-end digital offerings,” added the Governor.

Dr. Atick then concluded the session, calling Lesotho’s implementation of its ID system “fantastic,” saying he hoped the good example would be copied by other countries.

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