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Talk about digital ID by talking about services: ID4Africa 2022 workshop findings

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Talk about digital ID by talking about services: ID4Africa 2022 workshop findings

“Word of mouth spreads faster than our official communications,” said Henock Ali of Ethiopia’s National ID Program during the feedback session follow-up to the fourth workshop at the ID4Africa Augmented General Meeting in Marrakesh: ‘ID Communication & Awareness Strategies: Best Practices for Building Evidence and Engaging the Public.’ Still in the pilot phases of implementing a MOSIP-based ID system, Ethiopia stands to gain a lot from the workshop hosted by the World Bank’s ID4D (Identity for Development) initiative.

The workshops covered four major identity issues in person and then via virtual interaction leading to the feedback LiveCasts. Recommendations have been made on public digital infrastructure, digital ID for frictionless borders and Mission 100 for legal identity for all and how to persuade people to register. This final workshop LiveCast is available on YouTube, along with more than 30 previous recordings.

ID4D began the communication and engagement workshop’s feedback LiveCast with a session of manifesting, describing the sorts of newspaper headlines they would hope ID and CR projects would generate, such as “nearly 98 percent of the population has now obtained the ID” and academics tweeting their calculations of the number of days’ wages citizens save with reduced administration.

Acknowledging that in reality there are often headlines on discrimination and disgruntlement for projects, the ID4D team outlined the best practices drawn from their experience and the discussions for the workshop.

Principles of engagement

Marie Eichholtzer, digital development specialist at the World Bank – ID4D, explained how there needs to be a change of mindset away from one-way communications from government to people on identity schemes. This will help improve the design of the product.

Governments need to increase legitimacy and trust around schemes to increase the willingness to enroll. There needs to be proactive inclusion to ensure universal access. Designing schemes to meet people’s real needs and using human-centered design, incorporating the diversity of the population. Authorities also need to cultivate independent sources for feedback and to address grievances. All this can be constantly analyzed for improvement.

Participants in the workshop identified key groups to be consulted: the vulnerable; ID and civil registry organizations; political and socio-economic rights groups, down to grass roots organizations such as labor groups; and digital rights organizations such as Data Protection Authorities. Breadth is important to avoid siloed consultations.

Eichholtzer explained six steps of engagement from explaining the vision of the project to monitoring and evaluation, noting how step six needs to feed into step one for continuous improvement. There were also outlines for how to conduct engagement and report on any session so that participants can see how their input was used.

Communications: neutrality, a unified brand and free detergent

“The room really stated the importance that ID projects are not about registration, they are about enabling people to access services and it’s very important to highlight this in the communication campaigns,” said Eichholtzer. This was a common message at ID4Africa in Marrakesh.

Communications must be simple, tell stories, remain neutral politically, ensure relevance and cultivate a unifying brand. Incentives can help, such as the campaign in Nigeria to attract people to register with, apparently, free detergent. The Philippines had success with creating a song for its ID program.

Monitoring and measuring of the data allows further improvement, explained Julia Clark, senior economist at the World Bank – ID4D. Data enables the monitoring of systems and staff, helps scheme managers understand what is working and problem areas such as determining areas of a country where large numbers of parents do not have ID themselves required for registering their children.

Metadata can help understand what categories of people are being enrolled or missed out. Studies on design evaluation and impact evaluations keep the momentum for focus on and improvement of the schemes.

New guides by ID4D on engagement and communications are imminent.

Learnings from real-life situations: end times rumors, noise and humility

Things were going well with Ethiopia’s project until an enrolment exercise in an industrial zone saw rates nosedive, explained Henock Ali. His team can plot on a graph the point rumors spread among workers that the ID was related to the end time apocalypse. The team now involves religious and spiritual leaders for campaigning elsewhere, acknowledging that this view of the program will not change overnight as “word of mouth spreads faster than our official communications.”

“It’s because when you’re tying identity to services, people feel you are compelling them to a number and that’s how the churches are interpreting that,” explained Kenya-based Mustafa Mahmoud of legal empowerment organization Namati. “It is the end times that the people will be given a number.”

Mahmoud warned of engagement fatigue on projects and government interest only at the time of enrollment. “Unfortunately for many governments, including my own, we look at the end-user as the corporate that are going to access this data and not the person that is going to use this card to access the services that they need.

“So most of the time we only get engaged when we’re getting the document and unfortunately it is the last point of exit because if you don’t get it, you never get it again.”

More than ten percent of the Kenyan population have been unable to register for the country’s new, digital ID scheme as they do not have credentials within the previous scheme. He suggested Ali go back to the drawing board in Ethiopia to engage with civil society so as not to make the same mistakes.

Civil society organization (CSO) and government relations were seen as critical by participants including Mahmoud.

“One aspect which is fundamental, structural is whether CSOs or certain CSOs have not accepted the inevitability of the need for identity,” said ID4Africa Executive Chairman Dr. Joseph Atick. “To me, that’s a foundational question which is if you do not believe that identity should exist, then you don’t want to engage, you don’t want to talk with the government about serving the people, you want to do anything and everything sensational to make the project fail, to discourage the people from participating and the question is, how do we get away from that?”

Director General of Nigeria’s identity authority, NIMC, Aliyu Aziz said it is about picking out the signals from the noise, being humble and listening to people. “We don’t expect everybody to accept what we’re doing,” he said, referring to the population of 210 million.

Feedback helped make Nigeria’s system more responsive. The number of data fields collected was reduced from 83 to just ten. The was a fingerprint bypass when someone is unable to provide prints, and app was introduced and tokenization developed.

Participants agreed that identity systems must remain neutral and apolitical. Dr. Aaron Ramodumo of South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs said that his country’s ID system is apolitical and got off to a good start with former president Nelson Mandela urging people to go and get ID to then be able to vote. Who they voted for was their choice.

Aziz said that it is possible for a government to launch an ID system and for it to remain apolitical. He believes that in Nigeria, the National Identity Number is accepted by the opposition and in its own right is beyond political debate. NIMC has outlived several presidents.

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