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Dignified identities in cash programming - DIGID

""© Igor Ovsyannkov/ Unsplash
Four of Norway’s largest humanitarian organisations came together to help tackle the challenge of digital identities in cash programming. The project received funding from the Innovation Lab in 2018, and completed the pilot in 2022.

Scope of the project

Due to lack of recognized proof of identity, roughly 1.5 billion individuals face challenges in accessing or enjoying basic rights and services such as voting, setting up a bank account, registering a business, land ownership, receiving social protection payments, school enrollement, and even humanitarian assistance. Identity management remains one of the biggest challenges for humanitarian action. Lack of registration makes people “invisible” and hampers effective humanitarian assistance. Attempts to address this issue have been ad hoc and siloed within individual aid organisations.

Digital ID has the potential to be a game changer for humanitarian action, by empowering and engaging recipients of aid, facilitating efficient and large-scale cash transfer programming, and by enhancing coordination and collaboration among multiple agencies. This project aimed to demonstrate how digital identity technologies can assist in overcoming these barriers and contribute to a more efficient, collaborative and user-centered humanitarian response.

Lessons learned

To get a baseline understanding of key concepts and opportunities of digital IDs for humanitarian assistance, IFRC hosted inception workshops in May 2019 in Nairobi, which brought together multi-stakeholder participants, including representatives from government, mobile money providers, and partner NGOs. These workshops also helped establish a baseline of requirements for the project and were used to source a technology vendor.

Over KES 2.1 million (19,000 US dollars) were distributed to 300 households as part of the field pilots to help address basic needs entailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The digital ID solution was tested in both an urban and a rural setting to highlight the needs of communities living in different contexts, and with varying access to digital connectivity and networked devices such as phones. A hundred households were reached in Mathare, an urban informal settlement in Nairobi, and 200 households were reached in the rural area of Kalokol ward in Turkana.

Based on the lessons learned from the Kenya pilot, the consortium have gathered some key recommendations for the wider humanitarian sector. Organizations should:

  • Reflect on the following principles, which are the basis for adopting a solution like DIGID: user-owned or user-controlled data; strong focus on data privacy and data protection; interoperability between humanitarian actors to recognize humanitarian IDs.
  • Review their technology ecosystem related to affected community identification. Can privacy and protection of affected people’s data be improved? Do people have access to their own data, and the option to update data or request data deletion? Indeed, traditional beneficiary databases do not offer the functionality to allow end users to manage and own their data.
  • Seek to collaborate and ensure humanitarian digital IDs are recognized. There is potential for organizations to improve coordination and accountability to affected people, reduce costly and duplicative registration processes, and promote the dignity and privacy of individuals.
  • Advocate to governments and authorities for humanitarian identities to be recognized as fulfilling KYC requirements (temporary access, short-term, limited funds). In emergency situations, this could contribute significantly to lifesaving action. Such advocacy will be more effective when groups of humanitarian actors enact it together.
  • Engage with the private sector and technologists and educate them about use cases and challenges in humanitarian action. This will allow technology to be better shaped to the unique context humanitarians face.

Click here to read the full report on lessons learned from the DIGID Kenya pilot.

Who are the project partners?

The project is led by the Humanitarian Innovation Platform consisting of Norwegian Church Aid, the Norwegian Red Cross, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children Norway. The consortium went through an innovative procurement process to find their private partner Gravity. The pilot was conducted by Kenya Red Cross and IFRC.

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