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Malawi on path to inclusion with digital ID project supported by EU, UNDP

Malawi on path to inclusion with digital ID project supported by EU, UNDP

The government of Malawi, with technical and financial support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the European Union (EU) and Irish Aid, recently launched a project that will ramp up digital inclusion efforts in the country and make access to essential public services much easier.

According to a UNDP news release, the initiative dubbed Inclusive Digital Transformation for Malawi (IDT4M) involves introducing a digital ID system and closing up the yawning digital divide in the Southern African country, where just about 20 percent of citizens are said to have access to the internet.

Specifically, the project will touch on three major areas, viz; putting in place  a robust digital identity system that prioritizes safety and inclusivity to facilitate access to digital services, especially for marginalized populations; enhancing digital systems and collaboration to improve service delivery while upholding human rights principles and advocating for open-source solutions; and boosting youth involvement in digital literacy and productivity, supporting digital innovations to address gender disparities, and promoting gender equality in the digital world.

In a nutshell, the project aims at making the Malawian government’s digital transformation journey one that is more inclusive, sustainable and human rights-respecting through a multi-stakeholder partnership. The partners include the National Registration Bureau (NRB), the e-Government service, MACRA [Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority], private sector and civil society organizations, as well as universities.

UNDP country representative for Malawi, Fenella Frost, speaking at the launch of the project, remarked: “In the context of Malawi, a holistic approach to inclusive digital transformation is essential. Through the IDT4M project, we have an opportunity to address challenges, capitalize on strengths, and foster a society where every citizen can thrive in the digital age.”

“The UNDP, in partnership with the government of Malawi, through the flagship digital ID project, made a substantial contribution towards national efforts to establish an inclusive, legal identity for all, including for children under the age of 16,” she adds.

Taking the floor, the Ambassador and head of the EU delegation to Malawi, Rune Skinnebach, said to date, the EU has contributed over €10 million (over US$10.7 million) to support the country’s National Registration and Identification System (NRIS) project, which is what has set the foundation for the IDT4M.

Ireland’s Ambassador to Malawi, Séamus O’Grady, opined that the project will significantly change the way the government interacts with citizens in the coming years.

Emphasizing the importance of a digital ID, Malawi’s Homeland Security Minister, Ken Zikhale Ng’oma, said it will provide citizens with a “secure and trusted means of identification.”

Fellow cabinet member and Minister of Information and Digitalization, Moses Kunkuyu, highlighted the role of the digital ID system in closing the digital divide and spurring stronger participation in the country’s digital economy.

The ongoing digital transformation project is part of efforts by Malawi to attain the objectives of the UN SDG 16.9 which calls for legal ID for everyone including birth registration by 2030.

Malawi already has a high rate of legal ID coverage, estimated at 94 percent, as of 2022.

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