Tshepo Magoma has shared some of the details about a research project that will seek to come up with policy recommendations for international lawmakers who are considering national ID programs. Magoma is one of three Digital Identity Fellows being funded through Yoti’s Fellowship Programme, which was launched earlier this year in an effort to develop more socially conscious identity solutions that reflect the needs of global citizens.
To that end, Magoma’s research will focus on South Africa’s SmartID cards, which were introduced in 2013 as a replacement for the country’s highly vulnerable green ID book. The SmartID cards have more modern security features like holograms and laser engraving, and were designed to cut down on identity theft and fraud within the country.
The Fellowship will seek to determine whether or not the SmartID program has been effective, and how the cards can be used to facilitate the distribution of government services. It will also examine national ID programs from a broader human rights perspective. Magoma notes that while single ID programs can fight fraud and promote inclusivity, they can just as easily be used to exclude certain segments of the population. For example, a recent report argued that India’s Aadhaar system currently excludes the country’s homeless and transgender citizens.
Magoma raises similar questions about privacy and data security following the implementation of national ID systems, many of which collect people’s biometric information. Despite the South African context, the issues have international implications. India has struggled on both fronts since the launch of Aadhaar, and documentary filmmaker Subhashish Panigrahi will be looking at the impact of the program on India’s marginalized communities as another one of Yoti’s Digital Fellows.
Magoma is hoping that any conclusions will guide legislators and private companies towards more secure and more humane forms of identification. Yoti, meanwhile, is a longtime advocate of socially conscious identity practices, and previously published a report on the identity needs of people in 10 African countries.
November 27, 2019 – by Eric Weiss