Thea Anderson
Director, Beneficial Technology

Increasing the Transparency and Accountability of ID Systems Through Continuous Public Engagement: Why We Invested in Nairobi

September 4, 2019

Governments across the globe are rapidly launching new ID systems; this is especially true across Africa. To date, there have been limited examples of meaningful public engagement between policymakers and the public in the design of these systems. Consultations, if any, tend to be short, one-sided, and symbolic in nature, often widening trust deficits between the public and the state.

At Omidyar Network, we’ve seen how trust in ID systems and institutions influences people’s choice to adopt and use a government-issued ID. For many individuals, trust breaks down when the ID-related policies, technologies, and practices don’t reflect their needs, preferences, and ideas. We’ve recently written about the link between trust and a successful ID program and how robust, transparent, and continuous public engagement processes are critical to achieving Good ID.

We’ve chosen to invest in Nairobi to help answer the question – what does good public engagement look like in the design, management, and governance of an ID system?

Policymakers either build or erode trust with users with every decision they make. When a government does not prioritize engagement practices that demonstrate transparency and accountability, they can fail to generate enough participation to optimize the system, face legal battles, amplify information and power asymmetries, and violate basic human rights.

African governments, civil society organizations, the media, and independent governance institutions have a unique opportunity to avoid this fate and reshape the conversation with and experience of the public at the earliest stages and throughout and ID system’s lifespan. It is our hope that with research insights and tools from Nairobi, they will gain new skills and capacity to develop ID systems that are responsive, inclusive, and accountable at every stage.’s human-centered design approach has been proven to effectively engage and build trust with all types of stakeholders, all over the world. They recognize that complex problems are best solved collaboratively, and have experience working with African policymakers, designers, technologists, academics, independent media, union representatives, watchdogs, special interest groups, plus an expanding range of civil society actors. During this project, Nairobi will bring together the public, government officials, and a wide range of civil society actors, such as human rights activists, legal aid groups, religious organizations, and refugee and migrant rights organizations, to design a public engagement approach that these groups can facilitate together in their country’s pursuit toward Good ID. Nairobi will investigate the current experience of ID holders in Kenya, understanding the pain points and concerns that people have with ID processes to date and their fears about the future. Nairobi will also spot opportunities for how the public could be engaged differently or more effectively across the design-to-implementation-to-governance lifecycle. By the end of their research, Nairobi will present open-source public engagement tools, relevant in and beyond Kenya, that reflect the various incentives, needs, use cases, and barriers for different user groups and ID issuers. 














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