By Calum Handforth, Insights Manager (Digital Identity); Matthew Wilson, Senior Insights Manager (Digital Identity)
Official proof of identity is fundamental to an individual’s ability to enforce their rights and secure access to a wide range of vital services such as healthcare, education, mobile connectivity, social protections and financial services. For this reason, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has set a specific target to provide every person with a legal identity, including birth registration, by 2030.
Of the one billion people in the world who are unable to prove their identity, more than 230 million are women and girls who live across the Commonwealth. The absence of identity documents can be both the cause and effect of prevailing gender inequalities; therefore, widening access to identity will also help the international community effectively address Sustainable Development Goal 5, which aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Malawi has recently made strong progress in building a foundation of identity solutions across the country. A nationwide mass registration initiative, led by the National Registry and Identification System, has resulted in the successful registration of over 9.2 million citizens. This ambitious registration drive has been reported to be largely successful, however some experts have noted barriers to female uptake of identity. There have also been significant improvements to birth registration rates, and the government is exploring opportunities to integrate functional identity assets. There is significant potential for mobile technology to deepen and accelerate these efforts.
This case study explores the current identity and mobile landscape in Malawi, and highlights where women and girls are known to face unique challenges compared to men when accessing or using identity documents, mobile services, and a wide range of other public and private sector services that are linked to their identity. The case study also identifies a potential use case that would allow mobile network operators (MNOs) to leverage digital identity services to deliver relevant social and economic impact to women and girls.