Good ID in

Latin America

Strengthening appropriate uses of digital identity in the region

Digital identity is essential for the sustainable digital transformation of society, the public sector and the economy.

One question arises: Under what circumstances can digital identification be a tool for inclusion or pose a risk to the rights of individuals?


Amid this dilemma comes the global Good ID movement, which seeks to recognize and promote the development identification technology that guarantee privacy, add value to the user, without discrimination and leaving no one behind.

This report aims to address that question and inform the debate about digital identities in Latin America.


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Ensuring that the State recognizes the identity of all individuals has entered as a priority in the international agenda. “One billion people in the world do not have a legal way to prove their identity”, says the World Bank, through the Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative. The 2030 Agenda established objectives for sustainable development, under the coordination of the United Nations and implementation by its member states. Universalization of Legal Identity is one of its goals (SDG 16.9 - until 2030, providing legal identity for all, including birth registration).

Digital identities are gaining more and more prominence as they are a pillar of the digital transformation. The challenge is that without legal proof of identity, a person cannot be included in almost any social protection program, perform basic everyday acts like opening a bank account or accessing health services. It is worth noting that the access to these basic services is increasingly digital in Latin America: 60% of countries in the region provide digital government services.

Hence, this study diagnosed through literature review and interviews that, in order to speak about appropriate uses of digital identity in Latin America, inclusion has to be at the heart of the identification practices, technologies and policies.

It is important to emphasize, for example, that although Brazil is one of the four countries with a legal framework related to identification in Latin America, the General Data Protection Law is not yet into force, nor the national civil identification law was implemented.

3.2 million unregistered children in the region (UNICEF, 2016).

Roughly 1 in 3 Latin Americans remain without Internet access (UNESCO, 2017).

Just Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Chile have civil records only in electronic format. The latter, including, since 2001 birth and death records can be performed online.

The report also presents the history and current practices of identification in Latin America, with a focus on the uses in services of: i) govtech; ii) financial inclusion; iii) health and iv) social protection. In each sector, the report discuss the role of (digital) identity, the risks and the context in the region. At the end of each use case, we propose recommendations to ensure appropriate uses of digital identity in the sector.

In the financial sector, for example, we are mainly talking about KYC (Know Your Customer) procedures, which can be simplified in the digital environment. In healthcare, it would be "know your patient", before that, however, the patient cannot be denied care due to lack of document. In the case of digital government services, the levels of assurance must be proportional to the services, but ideally all free of cost. For social protection, biometrics may be a key enabler for beneficiaries identification, but a comprehensive and transparent risk analysis is essential.

We have also included case studies from four countries based on interviews with representatives from different sectors. In Chile, we analyzed the role of the unique identifier and its relationship to the public key of digital authentication for government services. In Peru, we analyzed the particular relationship of the independent identification authority and a digital wallet developed by a private consortium. In Mexico, we analyzed the emerging integrations of birth records with electronic vaccine cards. In Brazil, we specifically analyzed the role of the Single Registry in not only enabling the identification of Bolsa Família beneficiaries, but in fostering the legal identity of the undocumented people. We conclude the report with the main lessons learned to promote Good ID in Latin America.

Although the digital transformation brings many opportunities, its simple dissemination will not solve all Latin American problems. Old problems remain in a scenario of disruptive technologies, innovative approaches and, especially, expectations of new users. Regarding identification, barriers to access basic personal documentation, fragile practices for protecting privacy and personal data, poorly designed identification systems and which are not designed to improve access to services endure. These challenges have a more severe impact on those in vulnerable situations and can contribute to deepening the socioeconomic inequality gap.

We appreciate any inputs and suggestions. By the way, if you are also a civil society organization, we want to discuss our role in this debate further, would you be interested?

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