Source: Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, and Unwanted Witness
How a National Security Approach to Uganda’s National Digital ID Has Led to Wholesale Exclusion of Women and Older Persons
Ndaga Muntu, Uganda’s national digital ID system, is a government showpiece that is of major importance for how individuals access their social rights and for how the Ugandan government operates. Initially designed to serve national security objectives that have dominated its operation ever since, Ndaga Muntu has never made good on its other promise to foster social inclusion, a promise often repeated by proponents of digital ID systems around the world.4 As our seven months of in-depth research investigating the impact of this national ID system on the human rights to health and social security for women and older persons will show, the result is the worst of all possible worlds. Ndaga Muntu has led to mass exclusion, shutting out as many as one third of Uganda’s adult population, and has become a barrier for women and older persons, as well as many other marginalized individuals, to access their human rights. This wholesale and severe exclusion and the accompanying human rights concerns are not merely an intrinsic wrong, Ndaga Muntu has also failed to deliver on many of its instrumentalist promises since its inception in 2014. The national security rationale that has animated this project from the start seems ill-served by Ndaga Muntu in its current form and, if anything, has stirred up trouble, caused anger and frustration, and changed the political ecosystem of the country. The national ID project also soaks up money that could have been used to improve the welfare of the people in Uganda while hardly delivering on the outsized promises associated with digitalisation, such as easier access to public and private services or creating a burgeoning digital economy. Seven years after the introduction of Ndaga Muntu, it is time to fundamentally rethink the approach to digital ID in Uganda.