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ID4D report: 2022 to see significant progress towards ‘paradigm shift’ in digital ID

ID4D report: 2022 to see significant progress towards ‘paradigm shift’ in digital ID

The World Bank Group’s ID4D (Identity for Development) division continued to work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic on projects and research across 49 countries, with $1.5 billion in financing in 35 countries. Its ‘ID4D & G2Px Report 2021’ covers the setbacks and challenges as well as progress for both its ID programs and government-to-person payments initiatives around the world. While work did go ahead, many of the larger reports and papers will not be released until later in 2022.

Progress in 2021

The organization responded to the impact of the ongoing pandemic to address issues impacting ID programs. It released notes such as ‘The Role of ID systems in COVID-19 Responses’ on how countries have used ID systems for the “design, targeting, and delivery process of COVID-19 response programs, including to move from physical cash to digital payments, as well as to facilitate mobile and online access to benefits or vaccines.”

Its practitioner’s note on ‘Digital ID Systems as an Enabler of Effective COVID-19 Vaccination’ provided a more practical guide, and emphasizes that ID should never be a requirement for vaccination.

Pushed down the order past all the repositioning work come the updates to projects around the world. In 2021, ID4D worked on design and implementation of “inclusive and trusted” ID and civil registration ecosystems in 49 countries. 35 countries are receiving World Bank financing with the “potential to provide better IDs and civil registration documentation to up to 470 million people over the next 5-7 years. Much of this work is done in partnership with other donors and development partners. Demand increased significantly as countries sought to use ID systems to respond to—and recover from—the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The report caries snippets on the countries where it is working, though with some intriguing details emerging from 2020, such as the fact National ID and Civil Registry staff in Lesotho issued 6,187 new digital IDs on horseback in remote regions.

We learn that pilots will soon be underway on Ethiopia’s Fayda foundational ID system; the Digital Gabon Project for foundational ID approved in July 2021 with large pieces of assessment also completed to allow digital transformation; the WURI foundational ID system for six West African nations saw capacity building and in Guinea a small pilot registered 8,000 persons with the MOSIP open source platform and Togo enacted its e-ID law; the technical side of a mobile ID app will be launched as part of the Philippine Identification System in 2022.

Such projects are supported by regulatory and legal work by ID4D. In this section we get a little more insight into involvement in Nigeria:

“A legal assessment of the enabling environment for ID has been completed, which identified a number of opportunities to reform the legal and regulatory framework of the Nigerian Identity Management System (NIMS) to align better with the ‘Principles on Identification.’

“Recommendations and support are also being provided to assist government in ensuring that the proposed data protection law is in line with international good practice. ID4D continues to provide implementation support to enhance the draft data protection bill and the national ID law to increase inclusivity, reduce the risks of exclusion or discrimination, and to better protect ID holders and data subjects.”

A ‘collective paradigm shift’ for ID ecosystems

“Going forward, a paradigm shift in how ID ecosystems and G2P programs are designed and implemented will be called for, to allow for the coverage, speed, scale and sustainability that are needed to reap transformational benefits, while also ensuring inclusion and trust,” writes Mari Pangestu, World Bank managing director for Development Policy and Partnerships, and chair of the ID4D and G2Px High-level Advisory Council, in her foreword to the report.

Countries that already had strong digital ID, digital databases and payments before the pandemic could use them to respond efficiently such as with social assistance. The infrastructure allowed these countries to operate remotely more easily. Yet there are inefficiencies and problems surrounding exclusion in many countries, including those with more advanced ID infrastructure.

The organization is planning to build on its ‘Principles on Identification for Sustainable Development,’ updated in 2021, to achieve a “collective paradigm shift” for ID systems. The agency has run workshops with civil society organizations on the Principles (which also get a new website), and the report has a list of elements which will play their part in the continued shift. Here a couple of the more noteworthy.

ID4D wants to escalate identity programs up through government hierarchies or provide autonomy to separate ID agencies:

“There are multiple challenges to shifting these paradigms and addressing them requires the ability to cut through bureaucracy and obstruction. Leadership should be at the highest levels of government, providing an overall vision, but also at the technical levels…

“Depending on the country context, it can be beneficial to provide autonomy to ID agencies or move them to ministries that are more conducive to the paradigm shift, a service-mindset, and the adequate skillset, such as ministries of ICT and digital economy.”

Another point is to make the most of opportunities to decentralize digital IDs and data:

“Centralized ID systems and other registries can play important roles as authoritative sources of relevant data. However, advances in federated and decentralized protocols and standards have enabled the creation of ID and credential provider ecosystems and personal data wallets that offer alternative approaches to verifying identities and other data with the same levels of trust and assurance.

“They also have the additional benefits of interoperability and portability and providing people with greater control over their personal data.”

Identity and biometrics reports still to come

Whether it is down to COVID, a large take-up of projects or a bottleneck, there seems to be a lot of papers coming up in 2022 rather than 2021.

The organization will release its primer on federated digital ID ecosystems early this year. It examines countries where multiple ID providers are in operation as opposed to a single central one. There are benefits such as competition, but challenges such as supervision. The report will translate lessons from countries with federations – mostly high-income – to the context of low and middle-income economies.

ID4D has created “a suite of knowledge products designed to help practitioners better understand the benefits and risks of biometric recognition and reduce the information asymmetries they often face when deciding whether (and if so, how) to use this technology responsibly”, coming in early 2022.  The ‘Biometrics Primer’ will provide: “an overview of when and how biometric recognition can be appropriately used in foundational ID systems; guidance on designing biometric systems that align with the Principles on Identification and mitigate common problems related to exclusion, technology failures, and vendor lock-in; and good practices to ensure that the deployment of biometric technology in ID systems is fair, accessible, inclusive, and protective of people’s data and privacy.”

The primer will be accompanied by another paper, ‘Establishing Unique Identities Using Biometrics and Alternatives’, and two new evidence notes that provide more data on experiences with the use of biometric verification at the point of service- and cash delivery for social protection programs and other services.

Case studies are also forthcoming such as a biometric-based cash transfer system for women in Pakistan

Back to a global scale, the ID4D Global Dataset underwent an extensive data collection effort, which will include an expanded set of qualitative indicators on ID system features and level of digitalization. After peer-review, its mid-2022 release will include an update to global coverage estimates, incorporating new data from the 2021 ID4D-Global Findex Survey with data gathered from publicly-available information from official sources on ID systems across 198 economies.

ID4D has also been working with the African Union Commission and a range of agencies to develop a Framework for Digital ID Interoperability for Africa. The ultimate goal of “enabling people to use their digital IDs to access services and payments, from anywhere” is in line with continental efforts to reach a free trade agreement.

ID4D provided inputs on the proposed technical architecture and advocated for a flexible solution, which can accommodate a multitude of credentials that may be used across borders such as academic qualifications and certificates, driving licenses etc.

The scope is ambitious, akin to frameworks being devised in the EU:

“The African Union Interoperability Framework for Digital ID outlines the foundations of trust and interoperability for digital ID systems across the African continent. This consists of defining common requirements to represent existing proofs of legal identity issued by Member States in a digital format, whose authenticity can be verified by relying parties in other Member States. Under the proposed approach, Member States retain full control and choice over the design of their national systems, while also enabling recognition of proof of legal identity (and other credentials in the future) across the continent.”

Things are going to get moving in 2022 as it is hoped that heads of state will adopt the framework at the African Union Summit. ID4D will continue its support and work on integrating regional programs such as WURI.

On a more granular but vital level, ID4D is working with the Smart Africa Trust Alliance (SATA) initiative, to help people access services across borders such as obtaining SIM cards (often requiring ID verification). ID4D will work on pilots in Benin, Tunisia and Rwanda in 2022.

And to sum it up: “With the introduction of a continental framework for interoperability of digital IDs, African countries will be able to realize considerable economic and social opportunities, accelerating progress towards Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.”

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