Digital Identity Management and National Economies
By Fom Gyem

TECHDIGEST – The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami has announced that Nigeria is making progress in building a digital economy through the implementation of the National Identification Number (NIN). The Minister stated this at the ID4Africa 2022 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Morocco.

It is for this reason that Pantami urged fellow African countries attending the ID4Africa 2022 AGM to prioritize data privacy and protection in securing foundational Identity systems toward achieving stable and thriving national digital economies across the continent.

ID4Africa, a non-governmental organization (NGO), was founded in 2014 to accompany African countries on their journeys to develop robust and responsible identity ecosystems in the service of development and humanitarian aid.

Annually, ID4Africa hosts an AGM in a different African country to bring all identity stakeholders under one roof and provide the continent with a long-term voice on identity issues.

The objective of the AGM is to give the continent a sustainable voice on identity matters. This is where African governments meet physically to jointly explore how digital identity and allied services can advance socio-economic development in their countries, and the international community is able to participate to advance discussions.

A key component of ID4Africa’s activities is the AGM which is an important engagement tool that provides the community with the mechanisms for information dissemination, networking, and collaborations.

ID4Africa paves the way for the responsible adoption of digital identity systems that not only empower millions of people who currently have no identity but also support state service delivery and promote the emergence of revenue generation through identity.

The organisation is an ID-4-All movement with representation from African governments, development agencies, and industry to develop robust digital ID ecosystems. It combines the two most powerful platforms, the physical annual meetings and virtual live feeds, to create the first-of-its-kind augmented conferencing experience, dubbed Augmented General Meeting by the ID4Africa community.

The ID4Africa 2022 AGM, held over two days in Marrakesh, Morocco, on June 15 and 16, with two special summation and wrap-up live streams on June 28 and 30. In a nutshell, the AGM begins with a physical event and ends with a virtual one. ID4Africa 2022 is centred on the theme “Identity in Context: The Digital Transformation Journey Begins”.

The field of digital identity is one that is always evolving, with a lot of activity currently taking place and quick technology advancements in a complex sector that poses problems for both individuals and corporations. Because the advancement in this field is still in its early stages, there is a lack of universal standards or comprehensive solutions to satisfy every need.

Therefore, it is crucial to comprehend each entity participating in the value chain, their unique requirements, and the difficulties each user experience presents. What is evident is that practically all governmental and business organizations now prioritize digital identity at the top of their digital agendas. In order to interact with their residents, clients, and suppliers in the manner they want, they must have a defined plan for this sector.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 494 million individuals lack formal identification. As a result, officials across Sub-Saharan Africa are rapidly investing in biometric digital identification (ID) systems and digital technology with transformative potential.

Digitizing ID systems has the ability to expand access to universally valid proof of identity, which is frequently required for citizens to gain access to basic government services and live a decent life. Digital IDs can have a wide range of transformative effects, but there is little solid research on how to best use them. Digital identity will probably develop in the context of several ecosystems.

The ecosystem, which embodies the diversity of digital identities, is present at one level (such as what one finds in digital identity federation, distributed identity, or even the e-commerce of sector-specific digital identities operating in silos). There are ecosystems at a different level, which are made up of service delivery platforms supported by digital identities. These are the foundations on which several economies will be developed.

There are already a large number of service ecosystems that rely on digital identification, and they have shown to have compelling value propositions, which is encouraging for scaling and sustainability. To mention a few, these include gig economies (short-term/freelance jobs), agritech, healthtech, Edtech, cleantech, and e-commerce ecosystems.

Consumers will find it difficult to access services online without these platforms, and service providers—whether in the public or private sectors. They will find it challenging to embrace new, more successful business models for providing reliable and affordable services.

African nations agree that the ID4Africa Movement is playing a vital role in helping them to overcome these challenges.

Nigerian Ambassador at ID4Africa Movement, Godswill Chinemerem Ukauwa, summed up the current situation when he said, “African countries’ identity management systems are characterized by lack of continuity in agenda, cynicism, inconsistency, technological backwardness, absence of digitalized identity registration, vulnerable class, and lack of access to some rural areas, the political instability that may derail existing agendas due to party interests, non-compliance to development agencies’ programme, and much more.

“Hopefully, by the end of the AGM, Nigeria and indeed the African continent will have a more unique role in coordinating activities that will benefit the whole of Africa and its citizens in other to have a more stable digital identity system”.

Fom Gyem writes from Wuye District Abuja

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