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How To: Create Digital ID for Inclusive Development


A guide from USAID exploring the intersections between development programmes and broader ID systems

Targeted at development practitioners – including donors, programme managers, and monitoring and evaluation specialists – this report from USAID explores the intersections between ID systems and development aims.

In the first section of the report, the authors highlight the impact of ID systems on different social groups, including working parents, the chronically ill, and ethnic minorities. The second section of the report offers a series of recommendations for development professionals whose work may intersect with ID systems, suggesting ways in which programmes could incorporate digital ID to best serve beneficiaries.

The report highlights the specific impacts that development initiatives can have on ID systems. For instance, the authors note that: “When a development project decides to create their own ID, it can help achieve project objectives – but it can also contribute to a fragmented, siloed ID ecosystem.” Urging development practitioners to consider ID implications when designing aid programmes, the report calls for a shift away from instrumental design, which generates single-use ID systems, in favour of infrastructural design that integrates with and supports ID infrastructure.

When this evolution takes place, the authors predict that there will be a broader shift away from functional systems towards foundational ID systems “that can serve as a public good and underlie multiple functional purposes.”

In the second part of the report, USAID provides a series of distinct how-to guides for practitioners who intend to include ID components within their broader development programmes. These guides are:

  • Encouraging infrastructural ID system design in the activity design process
  • Engaging multiple partners in the design phase
  • Ensuring trust through data protection
  • Choosing the right tech vendor
  • And designing for reuse and interoperability.

The report concludes by reaffirming the synergies between development aims and digital ID systems:

It is critical to balance the benefits of identification with empathy for the privacy, dignity, and agency of individuals. Ultimately, the key to sustainable ID investments is to see them as part of a broader journey to self-reliance

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