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Digital ID for inclusive service delivery

On-ground experiences headlines last day of MOSIP Connect
Categories Biometrics News  |  ID for All  |  In Depth
Digital ID for inclusive service delivery

Officials from two humanitarian organizations, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Development Capital Fund (UNDCF), shared how they are using digital identity and the OpenG2P platform to empower forcibly displaced persons in Africa and improve their livelihoods.

This was during a panel discussion on the last day of the MOSIP Connect event in Addis Ababa, and was one of the many presentations and discussions that explored hands-on experiences from various countries on how humanitarian and social protection programs are delivered through inclusive digital identity, using OpenG2P. Other related topics of the day included a keynote from Tina George of the World Bank Group who hammered on the need for inclusive and “people-centric” digital ID systems, and a presentation on the work of OpenG2P in supporting the implementation of social benefits delivery programs. MOSIP Connect ended on March 7.

Speaking for the case of Ethiopia during the session on field insights, a UNICEF country official, Sam Murazidkwa, said thanks to the Ethiopia digital ID program, they were able to pursue a huge humanitarian cash transfer program for forcibly displaced persons in the Oromia region, empowering them to live independently.

For a start, the official said they ran a pilot project with one bank, which ended up being very successful as the forcibly displaced persons were made to acquire digital ID and open bank account, difficulties notwithstanding.

“We have helped many of them to become independent, which has reduced their dependence on humanitarian organizations. Many of them can now also enter into work contracts and move around,” the official said.

He added that because of the success of the program, they hope to use digital ID to reach out with humanitarian intervention to many more displaced people in other parts of the country.

Ibrahima Mamma of the UNCDF agreed digital ID is essential in delivering services to people, but noted that more investment in digital public infrastructure is needed in order to deal with some of the problems common with digital identity.

Togo’s people-centric example with G2P payments

In a keynote that also highlighted the crucial nature of digital ID for service delivery and social protection with the WURI digital ID project in West Africa as case study, Tina Geroge outlined some factors necessary for building effective ID. She noted that it must be inclusive and user-centric, meaning people are, and should be, at the center of the entire process.

She used Togo as an example to buttress her point of a “user-centric” digital ID and DPI. She alluded to the NOVISSI digital payments tool, based on a social registry program, which enabled the Togolese government to make Government-to-People payments easily at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. She expressed optimism that with the way Togo is working, almost all of the country’s eight million people will be able to have access to digital ID in the near future as the country is also building a social registry to facilitate access to important services.

“People, often the weakest link in the delivery chain, are the ‘first mile’ in delivering social protection programs. Ensuring inclusion is also fundamental. NOVISSI showed it is possible,” said Geroge, who also pointed out that treating people with dignity is one of the ways of ensuring inclusion. She also responded to a question from the audience on the risks of generative AI on ID programs, during which she posited that inclusion is important in the building of biometric systems.

OpenG2P’s journey

Relatedly, Puneet Joshi, Chief Technology Officer of OpenG2P, the open-source platform on which social benefits delivery programs can be built, made a presentation on its functioning and how it can be used as an important building block by countries looking to build DPI for government-to-people payments.

Joshi said among other things that OpenG2P comes in to address some of the persistent challenges which countries today face in the delivery of social protection programs, some of which include vendor lock-in and high cost of proprietary solutions, insufficient data or the complete lack of a data exchange platform, gaps in population coverage, cumbersome manual processes, and leakages in delivery.

Joshi mentioned several aspects of the OpenG2P project, including a pilot it ran last year in the Philippines for financial inclusion.

The final day was marked by a number of presentations and panels which underscored the importance of putting people’s interest at the core of every digital transformation effort.

MOSIP Connect ended with a closing ceremony in which its President, Prof S Rajagopalan, expressed immense gratitude to delegates and exhibitors who came from over two dozen countries. While noting the successes of the three-day inaugural event, he apologised for some of the shortcomings and launched reflections on how the next edition can be significantly improved upon. He also urged MOSIP’s ecosystem partners to keep the collaborative spirit alive as they work together to attain their common objective of providing inclusive digital ID for everyone.

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