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.
Zambia has recognised the importance of identity in supporting its ambitions to become a middle-income, economically stable country by 2030. In particular, there is a clear interest in overhauling the national identity model and infrastructure, and developing identity databases that allow the government and other public and private sector stakeholders to better determine and meet the needs of citizens.
While Zambia has achieved positive economic growth over the last decade, women continue to lag behind men in most spheres of national development. Discrimination against women, embodied in traditional rules and practices, often constrains women’s and girls’ access to and use of identity, as well as their socio-economic and political empowerment. This inequality limits their participation in important household decisions such as resource planning and use, family planning and access to services such as health and education.
This case study explores the current identity and mobile landscape in Zambia, 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.