With the rapid adoption of digital identity almost everywhere in the western world, a stark comparison can be drawn to vast regions of African and Asia where Governments have not achieved any form of identity for their citizens.
Pakistan is the latest country reported to be behind the new digital age where citizens have been excluded from accessing public services and even having a financial presence due to lacking any form of official ID.
The report makes a series of recommended changes to integrate forcibly displaced persons back into society with a bank account and financial record.
Only half of 2.8 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan are registered under the Government’s database, while further studies suggest other minorities including women are outcasted from having a digital ID. In this country, women-only centres have been set up “to overcome the socio-cultural barriers of women hesitating to deal with male staff”.
The countries concerned in the report include Rwanda, Mauritania, and Eswatini which face similar obstacles in obtaining digital IDs for citizens. According to the report, these countries lack of officially recognised identification documents with only a restrictive number of registration centres where financial services and identification can be accessed.
The study offers insights into opportunities but also challenges associated with increasingly widespread adoption of digital ID.
The government of Eswatini has made significant strides in allowing refugees and asylum-seekers into the country to be registered through its Refugees Department, which is mandatory under the Refugees Act 2017.
These individuals can request protection from an authorized government officer by way of an application prior to or upon entry.
The UNHCR provides support to the Government of Mauritania with ID cards for its refugees and displaced people.
Rwanda has welcomed the United Nations Development Assistance Plan, which is attuned to the country’s proposed direction for transforming the economy and boosting transformation within Government and society. However, the country has already driven the majority of its own transformation for FDPs owing to supportive financial institutions such as Equity Bank. Eligible refugees for the UNHCR and WFP schemes are given access to have their own bank accounts linked with a Mastercard debit card provided to each household.
Some of the recommendations in the report call for transparent collaboration with government agencies and departments, review of regulation on FDP inclusion, sectorial risk assessments and better financial infrastructure.