Digital identification
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A billion 'invisible' and hundreds of millions of ghost children around the world.

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They are exactly 1,102,894,146. More than a billion people in the world are without identity. One in seven Earthlings! This is what the World Bank statistics reveal. They live mainly in Africa and Asia and more than a third are children whose births have not been registered.
 
Ahe problem is particularly acute in geographical areas affected by poverty, discrimination, epidemics or armed conflict. « The causes are multiple« Vyjayanti Desai, who heads the AFP, told AFP.ID4Dprogram, the Identification for development of the World Bank. In developing countries, she says, one of the main reasons is the distance separating people from government services. This is a major obstacle for people in the Amazon, for example," says Carolina Trivelli, a former development minister in Peru and ID4D board member. « It takes five days by boat to reach an administrative department...« she says.
 
Furthermore, families are often simply not informed about the importance of birth registration and the consequences of not registering, as in Somalia, Liberia or Ethiopia. And when they are aware of the need to register a birth, "... they are often not informed about the importance of birth registration and the consequences of not registering, as in Somalia, Liberia or Ethiopia. the cost may be prohibitive for families that are already very poor," says Anne-Sophie Lois, representative at the United Nations and director in Geneva of the children's aid organisation Plan International.
 
230 million children are nowhere registered at birth: no record or certificate specifying date, place of birth and nationality. One child in five is born without a certificate and more than a third (35 %) have no official existence.
From birth, his most fundamental right, the right to be officially recognized by the state, is violated (1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights).
 
As a result, millions of children in Africa and Asia have, at best, their first contact with government only when they are of school age. Yet, " Birth certificates are often required to register for school or take an exam.« ...comments Mrs. Lois. The lack of a simple official document means that the children concerned do not have access to basic services such as education, health or social security. This deprivation continues into adulthood.
 
The political climate also discourages many families from agreeing to be officially identified.
Because of inter-ethnic conflicts, they are afraid of being identified as belonging to a particular ethnic group, as governments sadly have preferences for certain groups. "to the detriment of others," says Trivelli.
In many countries, births out of wedlock or as a result of rape are also deliberately concealed for fear of discrimination.
 
In China, the lack of birth registration has long been deliberate, again because of the one-child policy, to avoid sanctions. According to Le FigaroLike millions of "Heihu", "black" children, projected into a Kafkaesque universe because they were born outside the plan, do not expect miracles from the recent relaxation of family planning policy. Yet this policy now allows all Chinese to have a second child.
 
Beyond not being able to go to school, these children are prey to all kinds of violence: from forced labour for boys to early marriage for girls, denounces Unicef, which published a report in 2013.
These children are also involved in human trafficking, Ms. Lois adds, "without the authorities noticing their disappearance.

Digital technology to fight against this scourge

For these hundreds of millions of "invisible" people, the consequences are dramatic: Without identification
Officially, a person cannot have access to health care (health insurance, vaccinations, maternal care), political and legal rights (voting, petitioning, owning property or receiving an inheritance), social benefits (food stamps, pensions or money transfers), gender equality (preventing early marriage), migration (crossing a border safely and legally, seeking asylum), financial services (opening a bank account or obtaining capital or credit).
 
 
To combat this scourge, organizations are working patiently on the ground to identify these "invisible" people. And digital technologies are a tremendous boost to "providing legal documents and producing complete and accurate statistics," Lois says.
 
Trivelli also notes that the evolution of technology, particularly its miniaturization, allows government agencies and organizations to reach out to people to enrol their biometric data in the field using tiny boxes.
 
The organization International Plan...which launched a decade ago a campaign called " Every Child Matters"has contributed to the registration of more than 40 million children in 32 countries. It has developed a strategy via a mobile application: village leaders can download an application to notify the civil status of births and deaths in their village. « Birth registration systems not only give children a legal identity, they provide governments with a continuous source of data. This enables them to organize plans effectively, such as immunization or education programmes."
 
The World Bank recognizes, however, that centralized identification systems can put vulnerable groups at risk if their data are misused. « We're very careful. Putting in place a legislative framework to protect privacy and personal data is essential.« concludes Vyjayanti Desai.

Read the World Bank report on principles for identification in the digital age

 
 
Sources: AFP, World Bank, Plan International
 

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