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Access to Mobile Services and Proof of Identity in 2019

– GSMA

The GSMA explores how lack of legal identification impacts individuals’ ability to access vital cell phone services leaving them digitally, socially and financially excluded

Given the growing influence of mobile technology in key sectors, such as finance, health and education, ensuring access to mobile services is of key importance. However, this report from the GSMA notes that the majority of countries – 150 in total – require users to provide a recognised form of ID in order to register for a cell phone. As a consequence, the one billion individuals who lack formal ID are being prevented from accessing vital services.

The GSMA calls for governments to upgrade their digital identity infrastructure in order to widen access and recommends collaboration between policymakers, mobile network operators (MNOs) and other key stakeholders to ensure underserved populations are not excluded from mobile services.

The authors note that policy action could include supporting ID enrolment efforts to reach underserved populations, like women and the rural poor, and improving e-government services to encourage the uptake of digital ID. The report also highlights the importance of consumer trust, noting that 20% of countries that require users to provide ID to register for mobile services lack robust privacy and data protection frameworks.

The report concludes by noting the potential impact of improved access to mobile services. Highlighting intersections with the Sustainable Development Goals, the authors contend:

"The development and pervasiveness of the wider mobile ecosystem and its catalytic role in accelerating countries’ digital transformation, poses a number of challenging questions relating to the role of government policy in enabling individuals to access life-enhancing mobile services. As the reach of mobile connectivity and mobile financial services expands, modernized regulatory and policy options are required to cater for the needs of underserved populations in order to avoid the risk of social, digital and financial exclusion."

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