“The lack of diversity and inclusion in identity systems and how that affects access to even basic financial services is a widely discussed problem, but the actual human impact is often far less well understood. This work highlights the stories and struggles of those who have faced exclusion firsthand.”


Louise Maynard-Atem, Women in Identity

Women in Identity strongly believes there is a need for a global Identity Code of Conduct to address identity exclusion—being excluded from access to identification credentials — that subsequently leads to exclusion from financial services and products. This research is the first step in building that Identity Code of Conduct. It reviews the landscape of ID exclusion, and investigates the causes and consequences of exclusion in two markets: the United Kingdom and Ghana.

This report presents findings from desk and qualitative research on ID exclusion: interviews with ten vulnerable users and five experts in each country who build ID-based products and/or services, including social security. We find that identity exclusion is largely based on age (both being older and younger), physical and mental disability, ethnicity, and homelessness, migrant and/or unclear legal status, among other factors. A lack of finances, lack of breeder ID (e.g., birth certificate), poor knowledge, and changes in legislation constrain a user's ability to obtain ID.   


Experts in the UK and Ghana agree on several first steps towards the Identity Code of Conduct: situating the user at the centre of the ID ecosystem; diversity in team composition (those who design and develop ID and ID-based systems); empathy for users; and better communication around ID requirements. There is also a more technical perspective among experts on the use of proportionality (only asking the ID credentials that are required) and e-KYC (re-using government data for verification/authentication). Finally, there is acknowledgement on prioritising a human-centred design approach, both from an inclusion and justice perspective, but also in order to access new customer bases. 


As a result, five key principles have emerged through these findings that should be considered as foundational in the next step of co-creating this Identity Code of Conduct. These lie in acknowledging that:

Report front cover

  1. The user is at the centre of an ID ecosystem (not just one, but many ID systems).

  2. Social norms are changing and we need to acknowledge these—“one size does not fit all.”

  3. We need to move towards proportionality, vouching, tiered KYC, and e-KYC (drawing from other government data) to reduce the burden of identity on the user.

  4. Identification may be individual but we live in networks of people that already know us —we need to account better for delegated authorities and intermediaries.

  5. It is essential to build diversity in ID or ID-based design and development teams.


This report addresses the human impact of identity exclusion. The next steps will be for Women in Identity to:

  1. Develop an Identity Code of Conduct in collaboration with industry and policy-makers internally. 

  2. Frame the economic value, growth, and investment opportunity of implementing the Identity Code of Conduct. 

  3. Develop a practical implementation framework for organisational adoption.


If you would like to read the full Human Impact of ID Exclusion report, download the report here

If you have any questions or feedback, please email: info@womeninidentity.org 


Meet Terry, a UK citizen who has been unable to access his foundational identification documents and credentials. 



Meet Va Bene - a transwoman in Ghana who has been dealing with financial exclusion for years. Hear how identity systems in Ghana's banks have contributed to this and the struggles she regularly experiences to open a bank account or withdraw money. 






Building on the extended bibliography that formed part of our Human Impact report, and the rapid development of the digital identity since initial publication, we decided to commission a dedicated literature review to support our work in developing a Global ID Code of Conduct. This review, written by Dr Eve Hayes de Kalaf (University of London) and Kimberly Fernandes (University of Pennsylvania), summarises the emerging trends, debates and controversies surrounding digital identities. The authors look at global examples of how digital identity is working in practice, and re-iterate the requirements for inclusive and equitable solutions that work for all. 


If would like to discuss getting involved with our ongoing research and International Code of Conduct development, please get in touch with us.












Thank you to our Code of Conduct sponsors!

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Want to get involved? Does your organisation have a Code of Conduct? Join our amazing Sponsors in supporting this ground-breaking work. Fill in the form to find out how you can help us develop the Identity Code of Conduct.




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