To the leaders of International Development Banks, the United Nations, International Aid Organisations, Funding Agencies, and National Governments:
We are a group of civil society organisations, technologists, and experts who work on digital identity developments across the world. We have worked directly with vulnerable populations, and witnessed the impact that ill-considered, badly designed, and poorly implemented digital identity programmes can have on human lives.
A Basic Question: Why ID?
There is a generalised assumption that certain kinds of digital identity programmes1 empower users, especially those in marginalised populations, by giving them legal identification and access to public services. Digital identity programmes can provide some of the same benefits to users as conventional identity and can reap the benefits of scalability of technology. However, the scalability of digital identity programmes also makes their harms scalable. It is far from being proven that most digital identity programmes have brought additional benefits to users, without placing them at risk.