Events in dozens of countries to mark 2023 ID Day
Experts and major actors in the identity space have been reiterating the importance of legal and digital identity in the socio-economic transformation efforts of countries around the globe. This comes as over two dozen countries in Africa are planning different events to mark this year’s edition of ID Day, an initiative championed by identity movement ID4Africa to create awareness on the need for governments to provide every citizen with proof of legal ID in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 16.9.
Proof of identity is crucial for sustainable development
In a World Bank blog post early this year, three officials with the institution’s Identification for Development (ID4D) Initiative discuss the critical role legal and digital identity play in the equitable and sustainable development of nations, adding that urgent action needs to be taken on the 850 million global citizens who do not have a proof of ID, a majority of them in Africa.
The writers cite World Bank data obtained at the end of 2022 which points out that many of those who do not have proof of legal identity live in low and middle-income countries including children whose births are not registered. Some of them are also members of marginalized and underprivileged groups and communities, they add.
While they regret that people who do not have any proof of legal identity risk being left out of critical government and private sector services, the trio also underscores the need for good ID which, they say, should be “inclusive, trusted, verifiable and fit-for-purpose.”
Goven the glaring problem of lack of ID by millions around the world, the World Bank officials make three key policy recommendations to governments.
To them, governments and other important concerned parties must first undertake to “reduce or eliminate barriers that continue to prevent people from obtaining official or legal proof of their identity,” create an atmosphere of “proactive, comprehensive engagement and communication with communities, local leaders and civil society organizations,” and to monitor and improve access to ID by ensuring better and regular data collection from citizen registration drives.
Dr. Atick dissects ID4Africa’s pioneering efforts
Among the key stakeholders who have drummed the importance of ID ahead of the 2023 ID Day is Dr. Joseph Atick, executive chairman of ID4Africa, the movement at the forefront of the initiative.
In a recent chat on Public Sector Future, a Microsoft-supported podcast, Atick discusses the role played by ID4Africa in the continent’s move towards digital transformation and digital identity, the kernel of the ID Day campaign as well as the perspectives for the future, including the ID4Africa 2024 General Meeting due to take place in South Africa.
Atick explains that ID4Africa has used three major platforms since 2014 to make the case for identity, namely its flagship annual general meetings, its Livecasts, and the Ambassadors program.
“It’s fair to say that over the last decade, we’ve been able to help bring into the inclusion fold hundreds of millions of previously invisible people, and to help governments build more transparent practices and accelerate their identity-enabled digital transformation platforms,” says Atick.
He says the impact of their campaign has been impressive as seen from many indicators: “When they joined ID4Africa, Nigeria had 7 million people in their biometric national register. Today, they are at 101 million and counting. The Nigerians acknowledge the impact of the movement on their progress. They say that the best practices and what they’ve learned from being part of the ID4Africa movement, enabled them to accelerate their progress.”
Atick adds that other areas of progress include the increased access to services using digital ID and the adoption of appropriate data protection legislative and governance frameworks, which have gone a long way in contributing to the economic and social development of the concerned countries.
In the podcast, Atick also speaks about the ID Day, which is an initiative ID4Africa started in 2018, with the objective of encouraging the issuance, protection and use of proof of legal identity.
ID Day activities on schedule as more govt, private partners take interest
As has been the case each year since 2018, this year’s ID Day will be observed on Saturday September 16, and many countries and civil society organizations have expressed their willingness to take part in the event.
According to an ID4Africa event flyer, activities to mark ID Day have been scheduled in 26 African countries. The activities, among other things, include civil registration and digital ID enrollment exercises, panel discussions on ID-related matters, distribution of ID cards and birth certificates to children and adults, civil identification fairs, exhibitions, sporting and cultural activities, media campaigns, and community and media outreach programs, just to cite these few.
In Uganda, the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) says it shall mark ID Day with birth registration as well as ID enrollment and distribution activities, as reported by Nile Post.
Meanwhile, the West Africa ICT Action Network, a Liberian civil society organization working to advance the use of technology for sustainable development, says it is joining the ID Day campaign this year.
In an article, the executive director of the outfit Peterking Quaye says the move shows their “shared commitment to advancing secure and inclusive digital identity solutions across the West African region.”
Quaye further notes that the partnership with ID4africa not only underlines their commitment to driving progress in the West Africa region, it equally highlights their belief in secure digital identity as a “fundamental building block for socio-economic development.”