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Dignified identities in cash programming – DIGID 2

Man registering to receive cash assistance in Uganda© Uganda Red Cross
The DIGID project tackles the challenges people with no recognized IDs meet when in need of humanitarian assistance. The project is also aimed at addressing the siloed and duplicative efforts undertaken by humanitarian organizations with regards to registering personal information of affected people and the lack of autonomy for recipients of digital IDs to manage and control their own personal data.

Scope of the project

The initial phase of the project (DIGID 1) was completed in 2021 with a field pilot implemented by the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) and IFRC providing cash assistance to vulnerable people without official IDs affected by Covid-19. This second phase of project (DIGID 2) builds on the learnings and recommendations from the first phase and expands the application of the innovation to the migration context and needs for identification of vulnerable migrants.

Two pieces of research was conducted to assess the needs of different types of migrants and get their feedback on the types of digital solutions related to identification that might be helpful. Insights and recommendations from these research pieces a well as the practical lessons learnt from the DIGID 1 field pilots in Kenya were used to frame the approach for DIGID 2.

In January 2022, the project officially kicked off by the IFRC with two implementing partners: Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) and Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS). The URCS looked at the use case of cash assistance for migrants while KRCS expanded their use case to health services for migrants. The technology provider Gravity continued to support the second phase and adapt the solution built in the first phase for cash assistance to the new use cases related to migration. The DIGID consortium continued to support the project and one other member, Save the Children, was able to pilot the solution in Dadaab refugee settlement in Kenya.

Lessons learned and impact

Due to the sensitivity of dealing with migrants in Uganda, particularly with refugees and asylum seekers, the project opted to conduct simulations initially as an active way to go through the processes in a safe and controlled environment without interacting with migrants directly. The simulation requested participation from URCS volunteers that interact with migrant communities and provide assistance to them. Local government representatives were also invited to participate. The simulation feedback was then used as an advocacy tool to educate stakeholders, including government representatives and other humanitarian organisations, on the potential for digital credentials to help establish eligibility for cash assistance. The simulations were done in the Isingiro district close to the Nakivale Refugee Settlement and in Busia, where cross-border assistance scenarios were simulated between URCS and KRCS staff and volunteers. Given the positive feedback and response from stakeholders that attended the simulation sessions, the DIGID solution was deemed ready to be piloted with internally displaced persons (IDP) that URCS is serving to have more practical learnings from communities. The URCS conducted the field pilot in the Bukedea district with four groups of 60 women who were internally displaced due to floods; 62% of them did not have official IDs. They each were given QR codes linked to their digital wallets and credentials, which were used to verify their eligibility to receive 250,000 UGX (66 USD) per family for livelihood support.

While there are clear benefits of the DIGID technology, including aid optimisation for the URCS and safeguarding people’s dignity by issuing digital credentials, there is also room for improvement for the project, including more consultations with different types of vulnerable migrants to validate their needs and how DIGID could help especially in helping them own and use their data. Other improvements include working with Gravity to improve the technology of the DIGID platform, so it fits the standard operating procedures of URCS, employing a more targeted advocacy plan to engage the government on the benefits of the DIGID project, and working toward more partnerships with other local humanitarian partners to avoid re-registration and attend to the needs of vulnerable people quicker.

In summary, some of the key lessons learned from Uganda were:

  • Recognise the sensitivities in migration and work closely with the government to explain the objectives of the project and how to complement their efforts with the humanitarian imperative.
  • Simulations are a good way of promoting active advocacy with different stakeholders who are new to this type of technology and the concepts related to digital credentials. It also ensures responsible innovation by not testing new technology on vulnerable people.
  • There are many opportunities for vulnerable cross-border migrants being attended by humanitarian organisations throughout their journey. With the same digital credential referenced using a QR code, a migrant would easily be able to show that they have been seen by another Red Cross or Red Crescent National Society before or be able to show what assistance they could be eligible for especially if continuity of care is needed such as prescribed medications or health related services and procedures.
  • There is a potential for those with no official identity documents to not be left out in cash assistance by having their credentials be available for verification and authentication at the time of aid provision. Something that could digitally replace an otherwise paper-based card or token provided by the organisation to the targeted households (e.g. Red Cross card).

With a successful pilot in reaching 60 vulnerable and internally displaced women with cash assistance, many of whom did not have official identity documents, there was also room for future improvements. For instance, URCS should conduct more community consultations on how best to enable recipients of the digital credentials to seek services they need from humanitarian organisations and explore ways on how they could be incentivised to manage and own their data. URCS should also work closely with Gravity to improve how data flows within URCS’ internal systems to Gravity and also better secure the QR codes besides PIN numbers, which is an issue for communities with low literacy rates. The pilot also focused on a single organisation. And the clear benefits of DIGID is when there are multiple organisations interacting and recognising the digital credentials of vulnerable people, which could lead to reduction of duplicated data, reducing stress for individuals who may recount traumatising details in their journey, and efficiently and quickly provision assistance such as cash because eligibility could be confirmed faster. URCS is already working with consortiums and is part of the national cash working group and can use their experiences and lessons learnt from the DIGID project to advocate for innovative and responsible ways of providing services to migrants using humanitarian issued digital credentials. When innovation is utilised correctly, efficiency and problem-solving can soar with a suitable investment.

For more lessons learned from Uganda, please read the complete lessons learned report here: https://cash-hub.org/resource/dignified-credentials-to-access-humanitarian-cash-assistance-in-migration-lessons-learnt-from-uganda/

The way forward

Humanitarians have often used the term “innovation” to refer to the role of technology, products, and processes from other sectors and new forms of partnerships. The use of innovation throughout the humanitarian sector has, at times, lacked direction and coordination with other actors in the field. A better understanding of the potential and purpose of humanitarian innovation could unlock further inspiration and benefits when problem-solving for crisis-affected people. Continuing to foster collaboration and innovation, as seen through the work done with the DIGID consortium and the work being done in Kenya and Uganda, will lead to better solutions for those lacking a form of identification. In June 2022, MercyCorps announced its partnership with CoinBase and CryptoSavannah, an Uganda-based crypto and blockchain firm, to conduct a project to address challenges in financial inclusion and economic empowerment of refugees and asylum seekers due to “inefficient identity systems”. This highlights the needs and the efforts of private and humanitarian sectors to continue to address the issues of vulnerable migrants in their attempts to get dignified services and an opportunity for these sectors to merge on a common problem.

Project partners

The project is led by the Humanitarian Innovation Platform consisting of Norwegian Church Aidthe Norwegian Red Crossthe Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children Norway. The consortium went through an innovative procurement process to find their private partner Gravity.

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