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Digital ID can boost GDP of implementing countries up to 13%: UNECA

Digital ID can boost GDP of implementing countries up to 13%: UNECA

Statistics and data experts have posited that properly implemented digital ID systems have the potential to significantly boost the economies of implementing countries by up to between three to seven percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The experts were sharing thoughts during a webinar organized February 20 by the African Centre of Statistics (ACS) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on how nations can successfully implement digital ID programs that reflect their local contexts and which are fit for purpose, according to a press release.

The experts also explained that countries with well-functioning digital ID systems can also boost their economic potential by between 3 and 13 percent by 2030.

The aim of the discussion, according to its organizers, was to explore a broad range of issues around digital and legal identity and to proffer suggestions about addressing questions of privacy and security when dealing with these concepts.

Speakers during the virtual event said digital ID, when correctly designed and implemented, can stir economic boom in countries by facilitating business transactions, enabling more access to public and private sector services, allowing further digitalization of important government services, ensuring more inclusive access to education, healthcare, labor markets, safe migration, and greater levels of civic participation.

“Analysis of digital ID Systems indicates that individual countries could unlock economic value equivalent to between 3 and 13 percent of GDP in 2030 from implementing digital ID programs,” said Mectar Seck, ECA chief of technology and innovation during the webinar which unfolded under the theme “Building Inclusive National Identity Systems – inter-linking digital identity and legal identity.”

Another speaker, Director of the African Centre of Statistics at ECA, Oliver Chinganya, emphasized the importance of digital identity in keeping warm relations between the people and government in terms of service delivery: “Digital Identity serves to authenticate and authorize individuals in various online environments like online banking, e-commerce, health care and social security transfers.”

Cognisant of the fact that implementing digital ID programs comes with many constraints especially in African where infrastructure and trust issues with governments are rife, the experts recommend that “the successful implementation of digital ID systems requires a comprehensive and collaborative approach, considering the specific needs and challenges of each African country.”

One other issue raised during the discussion was the low level of ID ownership in Africa. In order to change the reality and enable many more people have legal identity, another speaker, William Muhwava of the Demographic and Social Statistics service, called for stronger political will, more funding to make digital ID a public good, as well as greater attention on civil registration.

ECA partners with Google to drive financial inclusion

In an ECA-related story, the UN regional organization recently concluded a deal with tech behemoth Google to accelerate digital transformation through specific programs in Africa.

In a news release, the partners said the deal that targets three key areas, namely startup development, computer science education and cybersecurity, also seeks to drive up financial inclusion and digital government programs on the continent.

“This partnership holds the potential to produce significant and influential outcomes in tackling digital challenges and narrowing the digital divide across the African continent,” ECA’s Executive Secretary, Claver Gatete, said after signing the MoU on the sideline of the Africa Business Forum.

In a number of ways, ECA has been supporting African’s digital transformation efforts, including through advocacy for digital ID interoperability as a way of boosting economic growth.

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