November 2020 – February 2022
With the growing appetite for digital ID systems across the world, there is a pressing need to examine their impact on human rights, the rule of law, and the people who will be included (or excluded) from their consequences for socio-digital inequality. This is important because digital ID systems can create an inherent power imbalance between the State and its people because of the personal data that such interventions collect, leaving residents with little ability to exert agency in its collection, storage and use. This is particularly true given that the provision of such identities are often associated with the bestowal of certain rights or other benefits, yet that potentially introduces risks of surveillance, exclusion, and discrimination.
Research ICT Africa and The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS, Delhi, India) partnered in 2021 to examine the design, development, governance, and implementation of evolving socio-digital identity ecosystems in 10 African countries. (We explained the background to and reasons for this work in a previous blog.)
With support from the Omidyar Network, the joint team worked with local researchers in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe to extract a snapshot of the state of digital identity, using an evaluation framework specifically designed by CIS for assessing digital identity ecosystems.
The 10 case studies arising from this project were published individually, followed by a comparative report in which the RIA and CIS teams analysed similarities, differences, policy windows, and concerns highlighted in the reports.
- Ghana: Teki Akuetteh Falconer (African Digital Rights Club)
- Kenya: Grace Mutung’u (CIPIT)
- Lesotho: Nthabiseng Pule (C3SA)
- Mozambique: Polly Gaster and Izalde Martins (CIUEM)
- Nigeria: Babatunde Okunoye (Berkman Klein)
- Rwanda: Elvis Mbembe Binda (University of Rwanda)
- South Africa: Gabriella Razzano (RIA)
- Tanzania: Dr Patricia Boshe (AFRILTI)
- Uganda: Neema Iyer (Pollicy)
- Zimbabwe: Nhlanhla Ngwenya
We kick off the blog with a series of three introductory pieces. Read the first blog in this series to learn about why RIA in partnership with the CIS is undertaking research on digital ID. In the second blog, we explore basic concepts that can help readers understand what we mean when we talk about digital ID. In the third, we travel to India and hear from CIS about what they found when they assessed the Aadhar system using the Evaluation Framework. These introductory blogs are followed by guest contributions from country partners in a series of blogs and interviews that summarise the findings in each country. Read the blogs here.