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Trek to widespread digital IDs continues but Women in Identity warns it might be long

Trek to widespread digital IDs continues but Women in Identity warns it might be long
 

It is always best, when speaking to comrades in arms, to play up the achievability of a daunting task, but it is not always possible to gloss over challenges.

Speakers in a webinar posted this week on the impact of ID exclusion on people showed no signs of despair for their goal to get every adult in the world documented.

They could not hide their disappointment, however, with how little progress developed economies have made on legal and digital ID compared to developing economies.

The speakers were Louise Maynard-Atem, an executive committee member for the non-profit Women in Identity, and Jeremy Grant, managing director of technology business strategy for U.S. law firm Venable.

Women in Identity is creating a code of conduct for organizations designing, developing and deploying digital ID systems in financial services.

The event focused on who gets excluded from banking when they do not have an ID, a category of people that is viewed by many in government and business as the metaphorical long tail of a market database. It is generally assumed to be more profitable to ignore the long tail of any opportunity database.

Maynard-Atem pointed out, a bit sunnily, that if business is always searching for more profits, the executives should not ignore those without so much as a birth certificate because each one could become a consumer with documentation.

Her premise is correct, although the free market seeks revenue at the lowest cost of acquisition.

Looked at that way, Maynard-Atem should be directing her comments at governments, which can fund research to minimize the cost of getting digital IDs into the hands of their most destitute citizens.

Governments, even in the largest developed economies, would need to ignore partisanship — who would these newly documented people vote for?

That is a future topic.

During the webinar, Maynard-Atem and Grant touched on assessments of the two nations that are foster children of sorts for the Women in Identity code-of-conduct effort: the United Kingdom and Ghana.

Asked for his assessment of the situations in Ghana and developed nations, Grant halted before saying he was depressed.

He said that it is common in the United States to think the European Union has basically figured out how to begin minimizing the legions of unbanked and undocumented. But, Grant said, many of the hurdles faced today in Ghana are still present in the E.U. — and the United Kingdom and United States as well.

“These are universal problems,” he said, and progress dismantling them is insufficient.

Maynard-Atem empathized, saying she was unhappy, too. She said she expected more differences than there were between the United Kingdom and Ghana.

That realization did not derail the discussion, but it created a more pragmatic tone. It had better, the work on a code will be a long process.

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