Nigeria’s digital identity ecosystem was under the microscope at TRUSTECH on Wednesday, in sessions that focused on modelling identity in compliance with individual rights.

The central theme of a presentation given by Olatunji Durodola, Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of UrbanID Global Ltd was around delivering credible personal identity documents for citizens that can be trusted, secure and compliant on the backend and frontend.

Praising Nigeria’s “suite of highly-available digital ID services”, he acknowledged that Nigeria can rival European digital identity offerings with the implementation of support and website services, an abundance of smartphones in the country to facilitate mobile ID, however the main objective was to ensure that these solutions gained the trust and recognition outside Nigeria as well as at home by, in one respect, building digital profile metadata and enhancing recognisable digital profiles.

Nigeria was first to deploy mobile digital infrastructure.

By comparison, he said european countries had not yet achieved digital identity supremacy and were “weening” themselves off high dependency on technologies in the US.

21.15 million IDs have been circulated in Nigeria which is estimated to have approximately 2.5 million citizens, vastly outnumbering the population. The government also issues unique national identification numbers which citizens are able to download on a smartphone device for fast verification.

He added that user privacy is also a very important factor as well as the user experience provided by two national identity documents – the standard NIN slip and mobile ID barcode – which use blockchain to store transaction data and seek user consent before the ID verification number can be approved by the system.

The unique identification number is made up of 11 digits and every enterprise needs to be known by federal government.

Not there yet

In comparison, a second speaker, Solomon Okedara, from the Digital Rights Lawyers Initiative took to the stage to suggest Nigeria’s right to privacy was not already represented by laws, which plays a major role in combating threats to trust.

He notably argued that “national protection legislation is always exempted at the mention of nation security” and compliance checks over personal data should not just be limited to identity authorities and government, but applicable to all entities in the trust chain, determined by law.

He said that without trust frameworks, threats to trust that go undetected in an identity programme is unchecked access to identification databases by national security organisations.

Nigeria’s head of the ID4D programme recently echoed his comments in lobbying legislators to enact data privacy laws and the NIMC Act to make Nigeria’s digital identity system fit for purpose. Musa Odole Solomon spoke up during a stakeholder engagement to make similar comments on the need for an inclusive digital ID enrolment system and also advocated for a robust legal framework to support trust initiatives.

He also underlined the lack of readily available infrastructure to the National Identity Management Commission.

The government must not have access personal data of citizens and proofs of trust in an identity system must see continual improvements, including increased participation in identity programmes and more identity related services e.g. banking services.