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

Future of Legal Identity – The Supply-side

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 www.dharwadker.org/sanjay).

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The Hague Colloquium on the Future of Legal Identity