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Study proposes strategy for effective digital ID implementation in Somalia

Study proposes strategy for effective digital ID implementation in Somalia

The implementation of a digital ID system in war-torn Somalia will come with many benefits for the country such as the facilitation of access to public services, but the government has work to do in terms of setting up the right regulatory environment and infrastructure.

This is according to a recent academic study published by the Heritage Institute of Mogadishu, an independent research and policy think tank based in the Somali capital.

The research examines Somalia’s digital landscape, the prospects, challenges, risks and benefits and then makes a set of recommendations which could serve as a guide to government officials in the appropriate deployment and enactment of a digital ID system in the country.

While the study recognizes the many potential use cases for digital ID in Somalia, it suggests that the government must prepare the environment in terms of putting in place the relevant regulatory framework and digital public infrastructure.

The study also recommends that for a digital ID project to be successfully executed, the government must “undertake broader consultations and targeted stakeholder engagement to not only create awareness about the new digital ID program but also ensure organizational and stakeholder readiness.”

Early this year, the Somalian senate approved a revised legislation for the setting up of a new national ID card registry after about three decades, and Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) is partnering with the country for the implementation of the digital ID system. In March, the President also signed the Public Data Protection Act, which is considered a key enabler of the proposed digital ID system.

The study notes that because the implementation of digital ID projects in Africa has often faced a myriad of challenges, it is absolutely important that going forward, countries have a comprehensive understanding of the prospects and challenges of digital ID before implementation starts.

“This is especially true for countries such as Somalia that are emerging from conflicts and are rebuilding government institutions. The factors which will impact the outcome of a digital identity project also need to be understood,” the study mentions, adding that challenges likely to be faced in the implementation of the country’s digital ID system are technical, organizational, societal and political.

As part of the recommendations, the study calls on the Somali government to strengthen and modernize the civil registration and vital statistics system, harmonize existing ID databases, undertake a perception study to understand how different population groups will welcome the digital ID idea, prioritize institutional capacity building, get the right digital ID design which responds to the needs of communities, as well as ensure an interoperability and inclusion plan.

The study was carried out using the qualitative research method which involved interviews with subject matter experts as well as document analysis.

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