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ID16.9 podcast examines role of private sector in meeting UN’s 2030 legal identity goal

ID16.9 podcast examines role of private sector in meeting UN’s 2030 legal identity goal

The latest episode of the ID16.9 Podcast produced by Biometric Update focusses on how involved private sector companies and other stakeholders are in global efforts geared towards meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.9 which advocates legal identity for all the peoples of the earth, including birth registrations, by the year 2030.

In the episode, Biometric Update Editor Chris Burt shares insights into how these companies, through their cutting-edge technologies, have been involved either in government ID schemes or humanitarian projects.

Although this is happening against a context of varying issues, Burt says he believes this sector will continue to be a major player in the legal identity agenda. The private sector provides technologies, such as biometrics and document security features, needed for trusted legal ID.

“Sometimes, private sector involvement comes in the form of document issuance, but more lately, that has more to do with digitization and handling massive amounts of volume and some of the technologies that come along with ensuring that legal identity is perhaps more trustworthy than previous attempts have made it,” says Burt.

He adds that many of these companies working with governments on identity projects are large companies based in Europe.

“It’s fair to say that private sector involvement is increasing, but it seems to be proportional to the increase in concern over legal identity as a whole. That’s my impression,” Burt states.

However, he adds that “if the private sector is being asked to do things in say an environment where the policy is lacking, where the legal frameworks are lacking, then there’s always going to be a risk.”

Talking about the humanitarian sector, Burt notes that there has also been involvement from the private sector, although there have been concerns from organizations like the Red Cross on whether or not biometrics should be used for identification purposes.

Beyond legal identity

The podcasts also looks at ID4Africa as an example of a movement for legal identity agency, which addresses a broader scope of issues including digital ID and biometrics to promote the legal ID goals as a way of granting access to government services.

This is exemplified by the movement’s annual general meetings, like the one in Marrakesh June, where hundreds of private companies gathered to showcase their solutions which are helping governments implement citizen ID projects of different scales.

“It seems like the ID4Africa movement itself, so the organization and the industry players that are part of it, are moving beyond legal identity. And so, they’re moving beyond legal identity as a mission and maybe as a sales opportunity to encompass digital identity and even biometrics. When we were there, various different presentations in the main areas and private companies were talking a lot about identity for access to services and how individuals need to be uniquely identified for this,” remarks podcast presenter Frank Hersey.

The Cameroon ID case study

Meanwhile, the episode also features a case study from Cameroon where private sector companies have been highly involved in the country’s biometric national identity card scheme.

Speaking about Cameroon, Ayang Macdonald, Biometric Update’s correspondent based in the capital Yaounde, says because some private contractors have fallen short of certain expectations regarding the ID card issuance, the government has now undertaken a project for a new generation biometric ID card, and some private sector companies are believed to have submitted bids.

“I understand that some of the companies include Augentic, of course Augentic is actually present in Cameroon at the moment because they recently delivered a biometric passport project in the country. We have Thales and Idemia which are understood to be amongst those who have tendered bids for the ID card project. We have Veridos, Semlex and Zetes amongst others. So these are all private companies that are coming in to bid for the Cameroon ID card project,” says Macdonald.

He highlights the importance of the Cameroon ID card for citizens, the complaints raised about the current version of the cards produced by Thales, as well as the expectations as people look forward to the rollout of the new cards in the near future.

Future episodes will explore the experiences of those without legal ID, and the policies and technologies that are being brought forward to help them.

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