Workshop N°2 : Digital identity


December 8, 2020 workshop focused on issues, challenges and considerations of national digital identity systems. The importance of establishing a discussion on this topic is the ability of individuals to prove who they are, which is crucial to multiple aspects of their lives and daily activities.  Increasingly, birth registration systems are seen as a means of establishing a legal identity so that an individual is visible before the state. A legal identity is viewed as essential for enabling access to welfare services, for addressing social and economic inequalities and even for claiming human rights.  There are increasing pressures and efforts to digitalize birth registrations and to link them to national identity systems. 

Growing numbers of countries are digitalize or adopting national ‘digital’ identity systems and that increasingly incorporate biometrics.  National digital identity systems take two key forms: a centralized foundational identity that establishes a unique persistent identification number, or a decentralized and federated functional identity that utilizes official sectoral or purpose specific identities such as a drivers' license, voter registration, social security number, or banking AML/KYC data.  

From the UK to Jamaica, to Mauritius, to Kenya and more recently to Taiwan, national digital identity systems have been and continue to be subject to legal challenges based on issues such as proportionality, necessity, data quality, and discrimination and exclusion. These challenges reveal the impact of national digital identity systems on a range of human rights. 

This workshop aims to provide an opportunity not to only discuss the issues and challenges of national digital identity systems, but considerations of how to address these. For example, and given the increasing successful legal challenges to national digital identity systems, would it be beneficial to consider developing human rights impact assessment methodology that a more traditional ‘privacy impact assessment’ approach may not be sufficient? 

Speakers for this workshop include: 

Alenka Prvinšek Persoglio (Vice President, Interact4c will speak on the topic of good civil registration systems and legal identity.  The discussion covered key governance and accountability elements necessary to guarantee fundamental rights, the benefits of digitized civil registration systems and lessons and recommendations, drawing on experiences from across Africa and Europe. 

Grace Mutungu (Research Fellow, Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law, Strathmore University, Kenya ) spoke on the human rights impact assessments for digital ID programs and how can they help build more socially just systems, drawing on experiences of Kenya.  

Dorothy Mukasa (Chief Executive Officer, Unwanted Witness Uganda ) discussed about the exclusionary impact of Uganda’s national identity system and human rights considerations.