A new study by The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI) has highlighted how digital-ID programmes can save marginalised groups millions and make such communities more inclusive in three African countries.

The research, which focused on four marginalised population groups in the Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda and South Africa, found that there are several life situations that a digital-ID framework could impact for the better, including registration for births and medical insurance, social grants and education subsidies as well as setting up bank and mobile-money accounts.

The groups at the focus of the study were the elderly, females living in rural areas, informal retailers and the unemployed in urban areas. All face unique challenges in accessing resources, economic opportunities and public services so the researchers looked at a range of life situations.

Economic benefit

Among its findings, it revealed that Rwanda’s marginalised population would save approximately $9.7 million a year if a digital ID is adopted to carry out certain activities remotely. That figure reached $620 million a year for South Africa and $43.7 million a year for Cote d’Ivoire

In both Rwanda and South Africa, it is the elderly that will see the greatest economic benefit while in Cote d’Ivoire the urban unemployed are the group with the most to gain, the report said. In terms of use cases, the research found that remote payment of social grants would have the biggest impact on marginalised groups in both Rwanda and South Africa, in addition to remote registration of medical insurance in the former. In Cote d’Ivoire, remote registration of education subsidies and births were projected to have the greatest impact.

Actionable insights

Based on the findings, the researchers suggested several actionable insights to create an effective digital-ID framework that can empower these groups.

These included prioritising the design of digital-ID use cases with the biggest impact on public-service delivery, economic growth and social inclusion; establishing robust public key infrastructure (PKI) and digital-authentication mechanisms; integrating fractured ID-registry systems and expanding internet and mobile coverage as well as digital skills.


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