The Hague Colloquium on the Future of Legal Identity

Civil Registration Centre for Development, The Hague and the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, Johannesburg


Country health and statistical systems are facing growing pressures to demonstrate results and promote accountability. This has led to an upsurge in health sector interventions to track vital events – notably births and deaths and their causes – in order to understand the dimensions of premature mortality and develop and monitor interventions to avert such deaths. This proactive health sector engagement in CRVS development is characterized by innovative approaches – including the use of electronic and mobile communication methods – to improve the identification, reporting, and registration of births and deaths and causes of death in facilities and at community level. In settings where each individual has a unique identification number from birth, it is possible to significantly enhance the availability and quality of mortality statistics through record linkage across databases. For example, computerized algorithms can be linked to death certificates of reproductive-aged women with maternal identifiers on birth and foetal death certificates, or to compare records between the death registry and hospital discharge databases. This enables more complete identification of maternal and neonatal deaths, reductions in misreporting and more accurate monitoring of maternal and neonatal mortality. It also contributes to improved understanding of the causes and circumstances of deaths. Sharing of individual record data should be promoted as part of public health surveillance but requires a supportive legal and administrative framework, with agreed standards for confidentiality and data security.

Most documentation of identity systems in place today (with a few notable exceptions such as India) document only citizens. Before the advent of widespread identity cards, individuals habitually resident in a country were generally assumed to be citizens, even in the absence of official documentation. The introduction of identity cards, closely linked with requirements to present such cards to obtain services, enter into private contracts such as employment, purchase a property, or leasing, and to exercise rights such as voting, has shifted this assumptions. Individuals without documentation of identity are now often treated as, if not assumed to be, non-citizens. This presents a fundamental human rights issue. In principle, individuals should not be deprived of citizenship without due process of law (generally understood as an individualized, judicial determination of their nationality). In practice, the rapid rollout of requirements for documentation, paired with the inevitable shortcomings of state bureaucracies, means that individuals are being effectively deprived of their citizenship rights. What are the implications for documentation of identity schemes? How must schemes be structured so as to protect individuals’ right to citizenship and to due process?

Universal or unique identification systems are all the range. Over 100 countries world wide use identity cards to short circuit cumbersome identification procedures across a broad range of situations, from rationing food to monitoring terrorist threats. This proliferation includes countries in the global south. From Pakistan to Nigeria, from Afghanistan to South Africa, governments struggling with dramatic social inequality, very significant deficits in civic identification including birth registration, and inefficient/corrupt systems of welfare distribution, are turning to forms of universal and unique identification as a potential solution. India, the world's largest democracy and home to its most numerous population of people living below $1.25 a day, is no exception. The Aadhaar Card, an identifier based on biometric information and therefore unique to each individual, was introduced by the Indian Government in 2009. Enrollment in Aadhaar has been brisk and is expected to reach one billion people by the end of this year. Two key promises lay at the heart of this highly funded and politically visible initiative. One was that Aadhaar would reach hitherto invisible or unreached populations and enable them to access welfare and other benefits to which they were entitled. The second was that the card would promote benefit "portability" - ensuring that the millions of migrant workers moving east to west or south to north would not lose out on their entitlements because of documentary deficits. Have these promises of inclusion been met? My paper will probe this issue and review the evidence so far available relating to it. In the process it will also raise broader questions about the concerns associated with the spread of universal identification systems.

Norway has a long experience with civil registration and vital statistics. Registration of births, deaths and marriages was started by the church almost 300 years ago. A unique personal identification number (PIN) and a central population register (CPR) were established in 1964. The CPR has been an extremely valuable data source for administration, policy making, statistics and research, and has contributed to improving the lives of people living in Norway. A PIN called F number is assigned to all births and new immigrants to Norway who intend to reside for at least 6 months. A special PIN called D number is allocated to non-residents who need a unique identification number. Both numbers consist of eleven digits including date of birth, gender and two control digits. The system will run out of digits in in 2029 (D numbers) and 2014 (F numbers), which makes it necessary to redesign the system. There is also a need to protect better against misuse, which have increased in recent years. There are no biometric data in the CPR and no guarantee that a registered person has been given one identification number only. There are also examples of loaning passports to persons with a similar appearance. This facilitates illegal immigration, which is difficult to detect as long as there are no unique biological markers in the passport register (only in the chip in passport). Currently a temporary D number is often allocated to an asylum seeker by a medical doctor because s/he needs treatment, which often leads to duplicate PINs and errors. It has been suggested that there should be a grading of the basis for identity registration in the revised CPR: (1) Unique identity based on biometric information (such as finger prints or photo, stored outside the CPR), (2) a qualified ID check according to national guidelines, or (3) no satisfactory ID control. This will be useful for users of the Register.

In 1990, a law required by the Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara imposed to strangers residing in Côte d’Ivoire a new Alien Resident ID Card. This had dramatic implications in a country whose population included 28% classed as “foreigners” (census of 1988). It introduced an unprecedented materialization of nationality in the public space of a country where any ECOWAS citizen could until then reside freely, and where immigration from the northern territories and bordering countries had produced a multitude of so-called “allochthones” in the south. From that moment on, through the rise of the “ivoirité” ideology and by the programs of identification and registration launched under Gbagbo’s governments, ID Cards have played a central role in social life and politics, finding finally themselves at the heart of the Ivorian “guerre pour les papiers”. The paper will be based on an ethnographIc approach to “the social life of documents”. Police roadblocks, public administrative procedures, voters registration and the popular practice of producing documents “from below”, will be observed as contexts of interaction and symbolic transaction, where ID Cards and other “papiers” have a performative value. I will focus on concepts of “identity”, “person” and “personhood”, showing the singularity of their mutual relations and combinations in different political and historical Ivorian contexts. The ambivalent character of ID cards and documents will thus be brought to light: constituent parts of an apparatus of control and exclusion on the one side, symbols and instruments of citizenship and emancipation on the other.

The post-2015 development agenda is being shaped as we speak. The role of identification and its importance to development outcomes places it within the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda—specifically as one of the proposed SDG targets (#16.9), but also as a key enabler of the efficacy of many other SDG targets. Although there is no one model for providing legal identity, this SDG would urge states to ensure that all have free or low-cost access to widely accepted, robust identity credentials. Regardless the modalities to achieve it, the recognition of legal identity – together with its associated rights – is becoming a priority for governments around the world. Political will is central, and the SDGs – unwieldy as they may seem today – provide a useful reference point for accountability. But new approaches expand the horizon of what is possible, and should serve as a stimulus to development ambition. Seizing these opportunities requires strong leadership, a supportive legal framework, mobilization of financial and human resources, and – critically – the trust of each country’s residents. Incentives, technology, foreign assistance and reforms will all be critical in achieving tangible results. Equally important is donor coordination at the global, regional and national levels, to ensure inclusive oversight and concerted global action.

Quite certainly an important element for the spread of digital identity has been the availability and possibilities of deployment, of its key components: digital enrolment of populations on a large scale, its linkage to biometrics as a means to ensure uniqueness of each identity, and being able to provide an appropriately digital identity document, like a smart card. It is estimated that probably over half the world’s population has been covered by at least one of these aspects of an identification process, if not more. In many parts of the world, this has also been the first attempt in the living memory of its current generation of citizens - of being “recorded” as an individual, rather than being merely “counted” as in a census. This technological apparatus apparently has the requisite characteristics that can more effectively engage the individual through what is usually expected of a legal identity however, while such systems have genuinely enabled the state (and non-state agencies) to address asymmetries of gender and welfare, at least in exemplary ways, there is the constant risk of these becoming victims of inertia and thus the status quo. Also in the near future, if not already manifest, instruments of legal identity will encounter other public systems that are more pervasive and interactive – principal examples being the social media and the mobile phone. While the former is already a proven example of global identity that transcends national boundaries, the latter has a greater reach and spread to individuals, than any other state mechanism – a situation rife with possibilities, and yet not very far from the specter of placing the individual at even greater risk between the devil of state repression and the deep sea of regressive consumerism. Thus, if in the future, such systems have to address inter alia, positive social change, there has to be greater attention to processes that ensure sustainability, transparency and dynamism – aspects that policy-makers and administrators can address today in constructive ways. This paper draws from the personal experience of related programs over the last 25 years. (Refer

Across the world, the campaign for Universal Birth Registration (UBR) is underway. In the eyes of many human rights and development advocates, universal birth registration is key to preventing statelessness, securing the legal bond of nationality for children of non-citizens, promoting perinatal and vaccination programs, preventing child marriage, and reducing child labor violations. As enthusiasm for UBR grows, the campaign is gaining traction in countries that have maintained longstanding reservations on rights to birth registration. In 2011, Thailand removed its reservation on Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and now guarantees all children born in on Thai soil the right to birth registration. While the move was widely lauded, the implications of the program remain unclear, particularly for groups of minorities whose "rights to belong" as citizens of Thailand remain tenuous at best. This paper draws on evidence from extensive ethnographic and survey research in Thailand to examine how and whether the promotion of UBR is affecting highlanders in the northern borderlands. Results of the study indicate that UBR is likely contributing to changing birthing practices among highland minority women who increasingly give birth in hospitals in order to register their children at birth. Enhanced contact between these women and state health care providers may be enhancing perinatal care, vaccination rates, as well as HIV/AIDS testing and treatment among groups who remain at highest risk in the country for HIV/AIDS and maternal and infant mortality. At the same time, however, findings also indicate that, among children born to non-citizens, those who are not registered at birth may be significantly more likely than those who are registered to eventually acquire citizenship. Rather than securing the bond of nationality, these findings suggest that expanding the technopolitical agenda of UBR in states that do not recognize jus soli citizenship may contribute, not to secure rights and recognition for minorities and marginalized groups, but rather to expanded programs of state surveillance and exclusion of these groups under the law. In other words, in non jus soli states like Thailand, UBR may undermine statelessness prevention campaigns by providing "legitimate evidence" that a child does not belong.

The population in Nigeria is officially divided into two categories of citizens: those who are indigenes and those who are not, the first ones being those who can trace their ethnic and genealogical roots back to the community of people who originally settled in a specific place, most of the time a local government. In Nigeria, most of the 776 local governments of the federation produce certificates that identify the origin of their holders. Despite the centrality of this process in shaping legal identity, this identification process and the everyday production of certificates of origin have received little attention. The increasing literature on indigeneity, ethnicity and autochthony in Nigeria has rather insisted on conflicts triggered by the division of the citizenry into two distinct bodies (see for instance, Adebanwi 2009; Ukiwo 2006; Higazi 2007; Osaghae and Suberu 2005) or on the discrimination of the non-indigene in access to civil services, to job, universities or political positions (HRW, 2009). Looking into civil registration process has neither really been a concern among specialists of public administration. If the ethnography of bureaucracy is an emerging field of research in some African countries (Bierschenk and de Sardan 2014; Darbon 2001; Blundo and de Sardan 2007) it is not yet the case in Nigeria. And if we know the centrality of the politics of quota introduced in the late 1970s in Nigeria and its effects on federal bureaucracies (Gboyega 1984; Mustapha, 2007; Kirk Greene 1983; Owen 2013), the role of public servants in producing identity papers have not been looked at specifically. This article follows up a three year empirical research which has looked at the bureaucratic machinery of issuing certificates of origin in two local governments of Oyo state (in the south-west), the everyday encounters between users and bureaucrats and the complicated and ambivalent process of identifying a ‘true indigene’ by civil servants (Fourchard 2015). This legal process has to be understood in a framework of institutionalised xenophobic discrimination and what does this mean for the definition of citizenship in some African countries (Fourchard and Segatti 2015). This paper will look more especially at the mass process of producing certificates of origin, between new biometric system used to produce ID cards for Nigerian citizens (Breckenridge 2011) and the incompleteness of civil registration in Nigeria. Certificates of origin are not identification paper like the others: they are at the core of the working of the state and the administration: they are highly needed for the politics of quota in federal, state and local government administrations, in most of universities as well as for public jobs. They are simultaneously the legal basis against which non indigenes have been routinely discriminated. They are at the core of a massive identification process which remains a pen and paper based process. This work is a step towards a better understanding of the concrete and everyday conditions of the production of identification papers in Africa in general (Cooper (2012), Breckenridge (2005), Breckenridge and Szreter (2012) and in Nigeria in particular.

Proof of unique legal identity is assuming a more prominent role for accessing rights and benefits in many countries as well as for market transactions. In response to such needs, countries have been implementing a range of identification programs, and the trend will only continue with the further development of e-ID. Some programs, notably in Latin America (Peru, Chile, Uruguay) , have a solid foundation in birth- and civil registration. Many others are detached from traditional registration programs (Indonesia, India, most voter ID programs); others seek to use the national ID infrastructure to strengthen birth- and civil registration (Pakistan). Some countries have too many programs, resulting in waste and ineffectiveness.

The paper will document the trend towards National ID programs and also the increasing use of biometric technology in these programs. It draws on data released by India’s UID program to illustrate the degree of potential coverage of multi-modal biometrics and also the accuracy of this technology, which is seen as central for the integrity of such programs, especially in the context of large, mobile, populations. It will also consider the implications as such programs are extended to countries without adequate frameworks for data privacy and with lower legal capacity. Finally, it will reflect on the relationship between such national programs and birth and civil registration, and the requirements for rigorous “cradle-to-grave” identity.

This paper examines the relevance of the concept of legal identity to UNHCR's statelessness mandate. Using the proposed definition of legal identity as "the recognition of a person's existence before the law, facilitating the realization of specific rights and corresponding duties", the paper first argues that the concept is pertinent to those aspects of UNHCR's statelessness mandate which relate to the prevention and reduction of statelessness. This is because nationality, and documentary proof of nationality, are key components of legal identity. As such, effective implementation of Actions 7 and 8 of UNHCR's recently launched Global Action Plan, which require birth registration and provision of national identity documentation to those who have an entitlement to nationality, will be necessary for legal identity to be realised . In addition, and taking a broader view of the concept of legal identity, the paper will also argue that the concept is also of relevance to the aspects of UNHCR's statelessness mandate which relate to the identification and protection of stateless persons. This is because it is not only the status of national that "facilitates the realization of specific rights and corresponding duties." Identifying and formally recognising individuals as stateless can also facilitate the enjoyment of basic rights by such individuals until they acquire a nationality, particularly in States which are party to the 1954 Convention. As such, the effective implementation of Action 6 of the Global Action Plan, with respect to stateless migrants, will be important for legal identity to be given meaning for these individuals, and should be pursued in tandem with achieving a greater number of accessions to the statelessness conventions pursuant to Action 9, so that basic rights can be afforded following statelessness determination.

Historically the ムcitizenメ, or at least the individual who could claim rights, in England was identified communally. Baptisms, marriages and burials were rites of passage into and out of the local community of the parish faithful, and their registration underpinned the communally recognized rights to property and welfare that went with them. One claimed rights to poor relief by being recognised as belonging to a parish via the concept of a settlement. The right to vote was attached to property, or status, that was also recognised by the community. Only deviants were identified through the body via external marks of shame (brands, tattoos, mutilation) that symbolized an inner, unique soul given over to evil. The 20th century saw the blurring of this distinction, with increasing use of the body and bodily structures to identify all citizens. Biometrics is an extension of this, which does not even identify a unique individual but deals in the probability that two sets of data are the same. What are the political, social and emotional consequences of this effacement of the individual and the community?

The context for this note is that an individual (I) presents herself/himself to a case officer responsible for registering individuals who are to be granted certain rights and/or to be subject to certain responsibilities. A typical example is that I is applying for a visitor’s visa or a residence permit in a foreign country, Another is that I presents claims to certain benefits or is considered for carrying out certain duties. In such situations the case officer has to decide whether the conditions for granting the rights or imposing the obligations are satisfied for this particular I. To do this s/he also has to consider whether s/he has identified the correct I for the rights or obligations, on the basis of the available evidence of identity (EiO). For that task narrowly considered the ideal situation would be if all newborns came equipped with a unique as well as easily observed and understood mark, e.g. in their forehead. As that situation is neither realistic nor, for many reasons, desirable the case officer will have to consider the EiO presented, using the available technical equipment and guidelines as well as her/his training. A basic issue, that is seldom discussed, is which identity the case officer should establish for I: e.g. whether I is Mark Twain or Samuel Clemens. Most relevant legislation and guidelines seem to ignore that many of the characteristics used to establish an identity for I may have been changed over time for perfectly acceptable reasons: both some of the biometric characteristics and the ‘social’ characteristics. However, the rest of this note will also assume that there is only one identity for I that (potentially) is to be established or verified.

The global regime regulating registration and identification policy and practice is currently rapidly changing, under several sources of influence. This paper addresses the effects of registration systems on administrative capacity and state architectures and explores the limits and capacities of privatised registration, privacy law and regulation within South African and transnational contexts. The South African regime is significant as a complex of laws of registration, identity, citizenship and migration have historically been influential throughout Southern Africa and the world. Recent South African developments have pushed its regimes in directions simultaneously of transparency, secrecy, and privacy. It is likely that a domestic information regulator will begin to operate in South Africa in 2015, implementing already enacted legislation. The South African case demonstrates that developments in the transnational regulation of privacy are likely to be influential in the regulation of identification and registration. Indeed, close and instructive parallels that could be drawn between the differing regulatory regimes for the protection of privacy and those regarding registration and identity promotion and protection. The ‘older (often pen- and paper-based) state systems for establishing and recording civil registration events: births, deaths, marriages, divorces especially’ may be likened to privacy policy tools of legal instruments and regulatory agencies. The ‘newer computerised registration systems, the increasing use of advanced biometrics, and sometimes a connection to firms providing financial services’ may be likened to the privacy policy tool of self-regulation. A third set of privacy policy tools -- regulation by technology – building “privacy rules into the machinery and protocols of the communication flows dealing with personal data” – might be associated with either the ‘older’ or the ‘newer’ civil registration and identity systems.

This paper will highlight some of the key findings from Plan International’s exploratory research ‘Birth registration and children’s rights: a complex story.’ Whilst birth registration is a stand-alone right under the UNCRC, it has also been linked to an array of other rights and benefits, such as securing a child’s access to essential services. However, there is a lack of available empirical research exploring the effects of birth registration and how it benefits children in practice. This led Plan International to commission a study to investigate the benefits of birth registration for the individual and for the state. The research utilised qualitative and quantitative methods and focused on India, Kenya, Vietnam and Sierra Leone as case studies. The findings provide a detailed and complex picture of the relationship between birth registration and children’s rights, in particular with regards to legal identity, access to services, child protection and governance. Within this paper, we will focus on the connection between birth registration and legal identity. Whilst this was found to be an important relationship, the research raises some key questions with regards to the potential exclusion of marginalised groups. These will be further explored alongside the importance of placing birth registration within a broader CRVS context.

This paper gives an analysis of Botswana’s identity management system and explains in depth how identity management is a cornerstone for sustained service delivery and central to identification of persons and authentication of person data. It explains how citizens use identity as an access tool to claiming their rights, gaining access to social safety net programmes and services and to facilitate transactions between themselves, Government and the private sector. On the other hand, the paper explains how Government itself uses identity management as a basic tool for public administration and governance including electoral management. The paper underpins the centrality of integrity of data, including integrity of the registration infrastructure as in the registration processes; registration documents and the personnel etc. and suggests that integrity is a cornerstone of Botswana’s identity management system. Further, the paper underscores the importance of ensuring effective management of identity life-cycle, right from the beginning of identity (birth registration) to the end of an identity (death registration) to uphold the integrity and ensure that the national registers are not bloated. Integrity has largely contributed to the trust and confidence as well as the wide acceptability and use of identity by all stakeholders in the country. The strengths and weaknesses of Botswana’s identity management thus far are highlighted. The paper hails the proposed digital identity and virtual ‘People Hub’ as a strategy to further improve on service delivery and expand on both Government and private sector’s capacities to deliver services albeit with improved data protection policies and legal framework to control the keeping and release of person data.//

There is a major push to improve both civil registration and “identity chain management” in many African countries, driven by concerns both to improve delivery of public services and to ensure national security in the face of terrorist threats. Countries that have not previously had them are introducing identity card systems, and existing systems are being converted to biometric technology. The introduction of new national identity systems is a notorious point for the creation – or uncovering – of stateless populations. At the same time, there is increasing advocacy for and recognition of the documentation of legal identity – of which nationality is one component – as foundational for other rights. Yet question of defining who is a national is rarely even discussed, still less seen as problematic, in the presentations about legal identity and the infrastructure to ensure documentation. Nor are there effective systems for appeal on the determination by untrained junior staff of whether someone is a national under existing law (however flawed). This paper presents three case studies — from Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Mauritania — to illustrate the problems in practice. The introduction of new “foundational” national identification systems for adults, without first addressing the legal framework for nationality, risks making the problem of lack of legal identity worse rather than better. Indeed, it risks creating stateless persons where previously there were only undocumented ones. This part of the legal framework needs as much attention as the data protection and other privacy concerns.

Keywords: civil_registration, identity_cards, biometric identification, Africa, nationality, citizenship, statelessness, Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Nigeria

In recent years, a number of international organizations have promoted a ‘Data for Development” (D4D) research agenda. Initiatives such as the UN’s Global Pulse and Orange’s ‘D4D’ Challenge have posited that data scientists can use ‘big data’ (i.e. high volume, digital-born data) to solve ‘developmental challenges’. The ‘Development’ in D4D has been understood primarily as humanitarian development, with the poor characterized as users of developmental solutions or social services. Criticism has focused on the privacy implications. Likewise, D4D business models tend to involve risks and public goods for the poor but business opportunities for companies. There has been little (if any) discussion about the commercial opportunities for African producers, nor the potential for this data to be used for the purposes of industrial policy and economic transformation. The aim of this paper is to urge more explicitly political economy thinking within the growing field of ‘Data for Development’. It has three aims: first, to describe current trajectories within the D4D field for those unfamiliar with the terrain, second, to offer an alternative view of D4D that takes account of the possibilities of economic transformation and third, to use the case of Rwanda to highlight the importance of looking at power and political context when assessing big data’s developmental potential.

The capacity to make its population ‘legible’, through the development of accurate registration and identification mechanisms, is a core component of the infrastructural power of the modern state. In discussing the relationship between democratization and statebuilding, the electoral process as a technical process has received little attention. Yet, the introduction of competitive elections presupposes the registration of voters and thus requires the development of the ‘legibility’ capacities of states. This is particularly evident in Sub-Saharan Africa, where democratizing states have been confronted to the weakness of their existing records and forced to develop new mechanisms for registering voters in a reliable manner. This article looks at the experience of the Liste Electorale Permanente Informatisée in Benin, discussing the potentialities and limits of voter registration as a statebuilding tool.

In early Autumn 2014, twenty-three years after a council of elders and soldiers had declared independence in the wake of a bitter and bloody civil war, the unrecognised state of Somaliland began an ambitious programme to register and document all adults over the age of fifteen. Termed 'civil registration', this was in fact a programme to produce national ID cards using biometric identifiers. Although the registration began almost on time, the Ministry of Interior has faced criticism for insisting on the priority of the national ID card over the biometric ID card being produced by the National Electoral Commission for the June 2015 parliamentary and presidential elections. Opposition parties, civil society and international observers have added to this debate over sequencing by expressing concern that voter registration will be seriously delayed, impeding the holding of timely elections. Obscured by these election concerns is the politicisation of institutionalised identification in Somaliland, in which the authority to make legible Somaliland's citizens is claimed by different agents, including clan leaders. In this paper, I explore the rationale for the national identity card, placing it within the narratives of statehood, nationhood and capacity that have been variously used to justify and explain the project. I argue that the ID carries a burden of state-making, which has brought the government into tension with the international community and the opposition parties over the relative importance of civil and voter registration, leading to overt nationalistic policies when it came to the development and implementation of the card. I further consider how the scheme works in concert with ‘traditional identification’, and draw some conclusions about the success, or rather ambiguity, of this hybridity.

This paper investigates the process of devising the instructions for the preparation of India’s preliminary draft electoral roll on the basis of adult franchise. It suggests that in effect, this process became an all India administrative exercise in guided democratic political imagination, which imbibed the notion of universal franchise within the administrative machinery around the country. This exercise, I argue, resulted in instituting and operationalizing the procedural aspect of the idea of equality. It also set in motion the creation of a new national polity for India. By contrasting this process with colonial discourses on franchise and preparation of electoral rolls, focusing particularly on the enrolment of women and the attitudes towards other groups at the margins of the franchise the paper explores key changes in the bureaucratic political imagination in the transition from colonial rule to independence.

The last decade has have seen the rolling out of massive informational infrastructures in India that have little parallel in any postcolonial society. Biometric identification, GIS mapping, transportation databases, city-wide CCTV cameras are among the many initiatives underway. The ‘informational turn’ poses a cluster of new questions for research on postcolonial media infrastructures. The informational turn has mobilized regime modernizers, corporate reformers and social movements. Transparency discourses are significant, as technologies of visibility seek to reassemble undocumented populations into enumerated biometric databases. We are witnessing a major attempt to transform the existing technologies of managing urban populations since 1947. New information infrastructures attempt to rearrange the relationship between urban governance and traditional politics, seen as expressive of a corrupt and opaque urban system. I look at the vast ecology of the biometric Aadhaar project, while linking it to earlier histories of paper-based enumeration.

After half a century of stagnation, civil registration in Africa has shown hesitant signs of progress. Yet, there are still countries where registration rates have retrogressed, which is uncommon in any other part of the world. Birth registration, still, covers less than one in two births. At the same time hi-tech national ID systems are launched and elections are conducted using sophisticated identification technology and ICT at considerable cost. The モAfrican wayヤ of budgeting for and sequencing of the development of civil registration and identification systems in Africa is unorthodox. Industrialized countries have followed a quite different roadmap to reach nearly complete coverage levels and high degrees of reliability, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of their civil identity systems. This departure of the orthodoxy of developing the civil identity management infrastructure is raising several questions, addressed in the other articles in this issue. While touching on these questions, this paper is, rather, focused on the economic aspect: is the モother pathwayヤ economically sound from a countryメs (rather than from a providerメs, or any other micro- economic) point of view? Which way is in the common interest, which way is モgood governanceヤ of an institution central to モgood governanceヤ and economic growth? In order to answer the question central to this paper the national identity management orthodoxy is discussed, as well as the status of and developments in civil registration, the use of national IDs and voter registration, and how these are related functionally and organizationally. Estimates of the costs of civil registration, national ID systems and voter registration are presented. The savings possible from civil identity management orthodoxy are estimated to well exceed the amount The World Bank and World Health Organization have estimated that the fixing of civil registration worldwide would cost.

The design of many identity infrastructures is based on a reified notion of a unique identity. Identity schemes such as the Indian Aadhaar scheme use biometrics to uniquely identify residents, while other civil registration systems draw on official records (birth, marriage, death certificates) to achieve this same goal. Uniqueness is presented a policy objective that removes the risk of fraud and misallocation of resources. Unique identifiers, however, can also raise significant social welfare issues including privacy risks. A unique identity can be particularly problematic for individuals in witness relocation programmes, those affected by abuse who have a new identity to ensure their safety and transgendered individuals. The UK Gov.verify service is a high profile identity infrastructure that is explicitly not based around uniqueness. Instead, it is explicitly designed to be privacy enabling and is based on multiplicity: citizens can have multiple verified identities managed by multiple accredited identity providers. This paper uses this UK scheme to question the assumptions and consequences of uniqueness as a lead policy driver for identity infrastructures.

The United Nations has noted that one of the most basic institutional responsibilities of a nation state is providing legal identity for all citizens. It places this requirement alongside vaccinations, clean drinking water and basic education for all. Despite being a function of the state, the implementation of effective legal identity infrastructures increasingly involves allocating key aspects of this process to private sector enterprises. For example, the production of identity cards might be outsourced to a commercial service provider, as might the enrolment of citizens, distribution of identity cards or even the verification of their identities. This involvement of the private sector in key functions of the state raise important questions about the purpose of the nation state. Moreover, effectively managing these outsourced services is often problematic, raising further questions about the role and capabilities of the state. For example, governments need to achieve good value for money from their outsourcing activities whilst citizens need their legal identities to ensure and enhance their basic human rights, including privacy of personal data. This paper will explore these questions by drawing on case studies of evolving identity infrastructures from Latin America, the UK Gov.verify service and the Indian Aadhaar scheme.