More than a billion people worldwide, half of whom live in Africa, lack identity documents. Individuals who are then excluded from assistance and public services provided by their state. The solution to address this social divide would be to create a universal digital identity, advocates a non-governmental organization.
Without an official document proving their identity, eight people on our planet were de facto excluded from all assistance from the administrative and development services set up by their government. These “invisible” citizens have no choice but to live on the margins of society. These perpetual subscribers absent from health care systems or even deprived of education, cannot open a bank account or change country due to lack of passport or are not allowed to vote.
An identity difference that is synonymous with extreme poverty on the African continent has been observed since 2014 the non-governmental organization ID4Africa. The NGO’s mission is to help African countries “adopt a digital identity in a responsible and generally good way” and runs campaigns within the framework of the UN’s goal of sustainable development to establish an international identity day every 16 September.
Appeal to African governments “These invisible people survive by entering the informal sector,” emphasizes Joseph Atick, president and director and founder of the association. Without identity, these people are totally excluded from society. This is a major problem for the so-called developing countries, which absolutely must be solved. Our NGO has a role as a facilitator to give these people an identity in digital form and re-establish the connection between them and the social and economic services in each country. ”
“At our 2018 General Assembly in Nigeria, we called on African governments and civil society representatives to set up an International Identity Day on 16 September each year as part of the Sustainable Development Goal. From the UN, Joseph Atick continues. For ID4Africa, the key word is a responsible digital identity that respects citizens’ data. ”
Fear of mass surveillance But this biometric identification, which is often combined with mass surveillance devices for facial recognition, worries human rights groups. This is the reason for it ID4Africa, which focuses its activities in 48 countries on the continent, requires each of its partners, whether institutional or technical, to establish an appropriate legal framework to strictly comply with citizens’ private data.
“Information such as caste or religion, for example, should never be recorded on these dematerialized documents,” insists the head of the NGO. Which is far from the case! Some governments, collecting biometric data from individuals, tend to misuse digital identification systems to exercise constant control over their populations.