Thales is encouraging the use of digital identities to raise international inclusion. The company noted that there are still around one billion people who do not have any form of identification, and that many of those people are located in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
The problem, according to Thales, is that people without an ID tend to have more trouble gaining access to essential services like healthcare and education, and face more barriers in their everyday lives. For example, proof of identity is required to apply for a loan, sign up for a phone plan, or to register a new business. As a result, those without an ID are pushed further to the margins of society because they do not have legitimate ways to participate.
Undocumented individuals (and women and children in particular) are also more vulnerable to slavery, trafficking, and other forms of abuse. The official system does not know that they exist, and therefore does not allocate sufficient resources to protect them.
Thankfully, digital identity offers a potential solution to the problem, since it gives people a way to prove their identity without forcing them to carry a physical document that can be lost or stolen. In that regard, digital identities are more cost effective than their paper counterparts because they can be distributed and stored electronically.
However, Thales stressed that digital transformation is still a monumental task, especially since different countries are facing different challenges with regards to identification. Organizations like the World Bank are now supporting digital identity projects all over the world, and are doing so in accordance with Principles on Identification for Sustainable Development. Thales nevertheless argues that those organizations should work with the private sector, which can help build the infrastructure needed for a large-scale digital identity system.
“This will take years to build, and it is required to adapt implementation to the context and capacities of different groups,” said Thales Identity Systems Specialist Jaume Dubois. “Proactive registration is essential, and working with trusted partners in developing digital identities that leave nobody behind.”
The GSMA recently established an innovation fund to promote internet usage in Africa and Asia. MarketsandMarkets, meanwhile, has predicted that the market for digital identity solutions will reach $30.5 billion by 2024. For its part, Thales launched its own automated Identity Verification Suite in October of last year.