Surveillance-enabling Identity Systems in Africa: Tracing the Fingerprints of Aadhaar

Published: 28/Juin/2022
Source: Centre for Internet and Society, India

Research and Writing by Shruti Trikanad and Vrinda Bhandari

In the recent past, political justifications for national biometric identity systems has shifted from security and terrorism to the promotion of human development and social and economic inclusion, particularly for the marginalised. This has resulted in these identity systems being encouraged in developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

In this report, we identify the different external influences and actors that are playing a part in biometric ID programmes in developing countries. These range from philanthropic organisations, private companies, and technology vendors, to state and international institutions. Most notable among these is the World Bank, whose influence we investigated in the form of case studies of Nigeria and Kenya. We also explored the role played by the “success” of the Aadhaar programme in India on these new ID systems. A key characteristic of the growing “digital identity for development” trend is the consolidation of different databases that record beneficiary data for different government programmes into one unified platform, accessed by a unique biometric ID. This “Aadhaar model” has emerged as a default model to be adopted in developing countries, with little concern for the risks it introduces.


Themes: Cartes d’identité et passeports
Regions: Pan Afrique, Nigeria, Kenya
Year: 2022