Expanding inclusion through Digital Identity
We might not think about it - but a life without identity is a life without access to the fundamental pillars of modern life.
For those of us fortunate enough to have multiple ways to prove our identity, it’s something we never have to think about. The modern European citizen might have their passport or driving license to hand when they need to quickly confirm their identity, while for more sophisticated checks they can lean on their credit score, address history and other sophisticated tools. It’s a process which might frustrate us - but it’s not something that causes us real pain.
But this isn’t the case for everyone. For some people being asked to confirm their identity results in a humiliating situation where they have to throw themselves at the mercy of the business or organisation in question or quietly slink away and hope they can do without. That might not sound like the end of the world when it comes to buying a product online, but it can be a matter of life or death if it stops them from accessing vital services and support.
That’s because in our modern world identity and inclusion can’t be separated. Without a trustworthy identity, an individual finds themselves cut off and excluded - left to fend for themselves and caught in a frustrating catch-22 where the services which could help them build a trustworthy picture of their identity often require an identity document to get started.
When this happens, these individuals slip through the cracks - either because they were never given the chance to engage or due to a change in their personal circumstances it becomes more and more difficult for them to engage with society. From getting a bank account through to registering for benefits or even accessing healthcare, a lack of formal identification prevents people from enjoying the fundamental benefits of modern life.
Expanding inclusion through digital identity
This state of affairs doesn’t have to continue. While traditional approaches to identity have relied on physical documents and asked people to establish their identity from scratch every time they access a new service, a new approach founded on a principle of reusability can ensure that no one slips through the cracks.
Such a system would create a digital identity that individuals could carry with them wherever they go. And because this identity travels with them, it means they don’t have to ask businesses to trust them on credit. Instead, the reusability of their identity helps the excluded build a narrative for themselves - one backed up by past transactions and relationships with organisations and businesses.
For example - put yourselves in the shoes of someone who’s found themselves homeless through no fault of their own. While they might have an identity document to prove they are who they say they are - their lack of a formal fixed address makes accessing basic services far more difficult than it should be - particularly if forms need to be posted to them or an address forms part of confirming their access to services.
If they had a reliable, reusable digital identity which they had built trust in overtime, it would be far easier for them to access the services they need - even if they’ve never had to access them before. From opening a bank account to registering for a GP - organisations can benefit from the trust other institutions have placed in an individual in the past.
This approach also makes migrating to a new country far easier - both for the migrant and their new home. Rather than having to rebuild their identity from scratch, they can take their digital identity with them - proving to their new government they have a legitimate reason for migration and providing local organisations, businesses and potential employers with all the information they need to start their new life. Estimates from 2018 suggest that over 250 million people live in a different country to their place of birth - imagine how much time and money could have been saved if their identity history could have travelled with them.
Helping the excluded find their place in society benefits everyone. The individual can access the services they need and build a life for themselves. Businesses aren’t placed in the position of deciding whether to gamble on an unknown individual and public services can ensure the aid and support they offer is being delivered to the people who truly need and deserve it. And when these things happen, society as a whole benefits. We all get to live in a world which feels fairer and more inclusive and one where the only people being rejected due to issues with identity are fraudsters attempting to game the system.
Interested in learning more about the identity challenges faced by governments across the world? We’ve put together a guide to the needs and nuances impacting identity verification in Latin America