• Francesca Hobson posted an article

    Women in Identity’s 2020 Annual Report is out now!

    Women in Identity continues to grow, in terms of membership, sponsorship and all the opportunities t see more

    Women in Identity continues to grow, in terms of membership, sponsorship and all the opportunities that have been created. Our progress is true testament to how important the topic of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is within our industry. And how passionately so many of us feel about it.

     February 22, 2021
  • Article

    DEI leadership – how to move from ‘why’ to ‘how’. A round up from CusTech 2020

    The WiD Leadership team was out in force at KuppingerCole’s CusTech 2020 from 20-22 October. see more

    The WiD Leadership team was out in force at KuppingerCole’s CusTech 2020 from 20-22 October.

    In a series of sessions across the event, we shared practical tips to encourage better leadership around DEI and considered ways to identify and control unconscious biases when building identity systems that work for ALL customers.

    Some of the highlights included 2 great workshops both of which prompted follow up activity. we are actively looking at how we can get more of these sessions out into the public. Watch this space!


    Identifying and Breaking Potential Bias in Identity Systems

    • A great interactive session led by Colette d'Alessandro and Esther Hoeksema where attendees interacted with the WiD leadership team in small group discussions to share ideas on how to remove bias in identity systems.


    Learning Path to Identity Diversity

    • This session, led by Kay Chopard-Cohen, Diane Joyce and Karyn Bright focused on practical ways to make change. We concluded that change needs to start with our individual personal behaviour. From there we can grow into looking at the way our work groups and organizations operate.  Try simple tactics like stopping yourself from speaking (if that is what you do!) and asking for the opinion of someone who often goes unheard. Or physically setting down your pen as a reminder to listen! Often the most subtle acts are the most powerful when building an inclusive environment.


    The positive response from audiences was a great indicator that we are seeing a general shift from simply understanding why diversity is important to understanding how we can create diverse environments and champion those that are underrepresented.

    banner - our teams should be as diverse as the problems they aim to solve


    Designing for Diversity

    • The keynote session with Canadian team leaders, Chanda Jackson and Nicole Landry, gave a great foundation for understanding the impact of bias and what it means when you're looking to develop identity systems that are genuinely intended to work for everyone.


    Customers and the Identity Experience

    • This final panel brought things full circle, reminding us all that ultimately we are trying to build systems that work for ALL our customers - regardless of their race, gender, financial status or their physical or technical ability. Ably moderated by Nicole Landry, Dia Banerji, Diane Joyce and Louise Maynard-Atem reminded us that while employees may be 'stuck with' a bad user experience (UX), our customers have a choice! The past year has seen the identity sector move faster than ever thought possible with products rolling out to meet new sector demands. The team challenged that we may not always fully consider UI/UX needs across the full intersectionality of humanity when doing so. KuppingerCole dubbed this session a “Powerhouse panel!”


    This gave the Women in Identity team a great opportunity to work with colleagues across different geographies and time zones – a truly global event.

    We look forward to more great opportunities and encourage ALL our members to get in touch if you'd like to be part of future discussions. Interested? Why not update your Women in Identity profile with the topics that interest you most - we'll be in touch!



    Kay Chopard Cohen

    kayCurrently the president of Chopard Consulting based in Northern Virginia, Ms. Chopard has more than 35 years’ experience in executive leadership in business and nonprofit organizations in Washington, D.C. She has a reputation as a transformative leader who has led organizations through launch, transition, and sustainability to deliver aggressive results. She is committed to achieving success through courageous management practices by leveraging organizational strategy, structure, and culture to reach goals and optimize results.

    Ms. Chopard excels at building networks and collaborations and is accustomed to getting a seat at the table where she is known to “lean in” with clarity of thought, vision, and enthusiasm. Ms. Chopard has recently accepted the position of U.S. Ambassador for the Women in Identity organization and brings her devotion and expertise to the leadership team to further encourage women in the identity field and the broader tech industry. Ms. Chopard is also an attorney and has practiced at the local, state, and national levels of government before leading several international nonprofit organizations as executive director.

     October 27, 2020
  • Lilian Tseggai posted an article

    A review: Roundtable discussion on enabling borderless digital identity.

    Tamara Al-Salim reviews the roundtable discussion at the Singapore Fintech Festival see more

    At the recent Singapore Fintech Festival (8-12 November), our own Tamara Al-Salim hosted and moderated a roundtable panel session on Enabling Borderless Digital Identity. The session explored the role of public/private partnerships in enabling an interoperable identity network. The session had great attendance and lively debates, the speakers were asked to share their views on Trust and how to innovate in a space of growing demand for interoperability and cross border recognition of people, credentials with self sovereignty when consenting for access to their information. 


    Common threads and differences were highlighted in the approach to delivering government identity projects, the approach of government mandate delivery seemed to attract higher adoption due to the requirements placed on accessing services by users, the pandemic has also played a catalyst role in this where the government ID systems were used for contact tracing or as a tool for two factor authentication. Other governments chose to partner with private entities to run the program and its delivery for the country, this created a start in single sectors, in this case finance before shifting wider as the benefits are realised; it allows a clear segregation in the delivery from being government lead, but also allows the trust levels to be higher for the end users as the service is government endorsed. 


    The speakers shared insights on the significant role Digital Identity plays in the growth of digital economy; it drives inclusion by supporting increased access to public and private services for people, businesses and public institutions;  it creates trust in a non-physical environment to enable everyone to interact and transact in a way that's authenticated and safe; it drives open markets and creates level playing fields for innovation in the interest of growth and choice for users; and finally, it lowers the cost by finding ways of delivering digital services at scale.

    With the right foundational digital infrastructure, digital identity, authentication and consent, interoperable payments and data exchange, we're able to create digital ID systems that can work across countries with trust, and limit independent verifications in the process.

     November 25, 2021
  • Article

    DC Area Meet-Up: the official WiD round up

    On October 21, Capital One hosted the 2nd Women in Identity DC Area Meetup. Speakers from both Women see more

    On October 21, Capital One hosted the 2nd Women in Identity DC Area Meetup. Speakers from both Women in Identity and Capital One brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the (virtual) table. The entire meetup was moderated by Melissa Heng, Senior Director of Digital Product Management at Capital One.  It included a number of great discussions on the issues of identity and privacy as well as the tools women need to succeed in the industry. 


    Leadership and Identity


    Sara Strauss, the Senior Vice President for US Card at Capital One, kicked off with a look at why it is important to have diversity in leadership positions in general – and specifically within the identity space. Because everyone has implicit bias, it is crucial that all perspectives are represented when developing new technologies. As unique individuals, we all need an environment that encourages us to share our perspectives openly – they are critically important in the identity space.

    Sara also shared some tips from her own experience

    • Embrace that you are different. Your perspectives matter and what you bring to the table is unique and valuable.
    • Don’t try to look the same and think the same as everyone else because your uniqueness is what will set you apart.
    • When you are speaking up, speak what you believe not what you think you are supposed to say.
    • Find allies. Knowing that you have someone in the room who will support you, can give you the courage to stand out.


    Networking for Professional Development

    Career Development Facilitator Jennifer McCluskey then moved the discussion into a networking and professional development session. Attendees were able to share their anxieties and struggles with networking and Jennifer highlighted that these are common to ALL of us. What we need to do is shift our perception of networking from a negative, necessary, evil to a positive tool that can help us foster connections in our careers and everyday lives. Networking can help build our professional capital by giving us access to resources, information and influencers. It can give us the competitive edge we need to succeed. Attendees then took the opportunity to put those tools to the test, networking actively in several smaller breakout groups.

    lots of photos of attendees



    The Intersection of Identity and Privacy Panel Discussion

    A panel discussion followed featuring Dr. Jenn Behrens, Becky Heironimus, Maggie Martin, Kimberly Sutherland and Sara Farmer. Panellists addressed several questions about privacy and identity and underscored the importance of communication and transparency when collecting and retaining data. Customers and users have a right to know what their information is being used for and,as a sector, it is our responsibility to make sure that they are informed and comfortable with the security of their data. Dr. Behrens suggested that more user friendly language around what is happening to our data in real time will help create an atmosphere of transparency.

    Looking to the future, we need to provide customers with different authentication options. We can gradually increase the complexity of requirements as consumers become more comfortable with increasingly sophisticated technology.


    The Power in YOU

    Aparna Sarin, Vice President of Small Business Card at Capital One, then finished our conversation with an inspiring message: “As women, we have strengths that are hugely valuable.” Her personal journey of discovery includes overcoming bad, self-deprecating habits. She referenced How Women Rise by Sally Helgesen and Marshal Goldsmith and described several common bad habits including a reluctance to claim our achievements, putting your job before your career, falling into the perfection trap, and many more. Overcoming these habits will allow us to focus in on our strengths and give us the courage to be confident, assertive, fearless and empowered leaders.

    We finished with an overview of Women in Identity including our mission, goals and member activities. This includes an invitation to all participants – and our readers (men and women) - to sign up! https://www.womeninidentity.org/become-a-member.

    We had such excellent conversations on identity, privacy and our role as women within the industry. And we thank the many inspiring women who provided attendees with practical and accessible tools to succeed in the identity space.

    Thank you to everyone who participated and made this event such a success!



    Kay Chopard Cohen

    KayCurrently the president of Chopard Consulting based in Northern Virginia, Ms. Chopard has more than 35 years’ experience in executive leadership in business and nonprofit organizations in Washington, D.C. She has a reputation as a transformative leader who has led organizations through launch, transition, and sustainability to deliver aggressive results. She is committed to achieving success through courageous management practices by leveraging organizational strategy, structure, and culture to reach goals and optimize results.

    Ms. Chopard excels at building networks and collaborations and is accustomed to getting a seat at the table where she is known to “lean in” with clarity of thought, vision, and enthusiasm. Ms. Chopard has recently accepted the position of U.S. Ambassador for the Women in Identity organization and brings her devotion and expertise to the leadership team to further encourage women in the identity field and the broader tech industry. Ms. Chopard is also an attorney and has practiced at the local, state, and national levels of government before leading several international nonprofit organizations as executive director.

     October 27, 2020
  • Francesca Hobson posted an article

    Supporting International Identity Day on 16th September

    Supporting the campaign to make every 16th September International Identity Day. see more

    ID Day banner


    Supporting the campaign to make every 16th September International Identity Day.

    Why September 16th?

    The choice of the date is in recognition of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.9 which calls for a legal identity for all including birth registration by 2030.

    In support of this, we asked some of the WiD team  to tell us about themselves and what identity means to them…


    Kay Chopard Cohen



    Teresa Wu


    Esther Hoeksema-Westra


    Dia Banerji


    Diane Joyce


    Tamara Al-Salim


    Join the conversation! Share your video messages with us!!

    Email communications@womeninidentity.org.

     September 15, 2020
  • Francesca Hobson posted an article

    New Zealand ‘Meet Up’ looks at the role of education in Identity

    On Thursday 25 June, we officially launched Women in Identity in New Zealand and Australia, hosted a see more

    On Thursday 25 June, we officially launched Women in Identity in New Zealand and Australia, hosted and facilitated by Andrew Weaver, Executive Director of Digital Identity NZ. We chose to focus on Digital Equality in Aotearoa (Maori name for New Zealand) and our panel of amazing women brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table:

    Kim Connolly-Stone, Policy Director at Internet NZ;

    Pamela Moss, Director of Planning at the University of Auckland;

    Janelle Riki-Waaka, Relationships Manager and Kaihuawaere at CORE Education;

    Elena Higgison, Principal Advisor on the Digital Identity Transition Programme at the Department of Internal Affairs and

    Kaye-Maree Dunn, Engagement Specialist and Founder of Āhau

     DINZ logo

    What is creating the digital divide?

    We see a lot of digital transformation but rarely does it focus on diversity and inclusion. The panel looked at issues that are widening the digital divide in our country:

    • Reliable and affordable internet connectivity is essential in New Zealand to narrow the digital divide
    • Access to digital devices and resources is essential if our tamariki (“children and young people”) are to have equitable opportunities to learning
    • A big chunk of those underserved in our communities are indigenous people and our education system has not been designed for them
    • The need to differentiate between diversity (who is in the room) and equity (who is trying to get in the room)
    • The gap between our younger generation’s learning vs their parents’, especially among indigenous people, is creating a digital divide that can lead to a breakdown in bonding
    • A need to focus on broadening our workforce to bring in more indigenous people
    • How to diversify the tech industry by addressing the mathematics literacy gap, starting with schools
    • Learn from community leaders that are addressing digital inclusion and participation


    Education is key …

    We focused much of our discussions on education and home learning (specifically online learning). The gaps that exist today may have a huge impact on the future of our communities.  These were my main takeaways from the session:

    Janelle highlighted that the education system was not actually designed to be inclusive of, and accessible to, indigenous people, it was designed from a Western perspective and the content and the way we deliver it becomes a barrier. Add in a requirement for access to technology and financial means and we start to pile inequality on top of inequality. The divide between the “haves” and “have nots” is going to have to change at a fundamental level.  We cannot afford to allow the next generation to enter the workforce already disadvantaged. Many of those already affected are indigenous people. Inclusion needs to start with  them – not see them as an exception. We cannot choose one ’identity’ or one world view on which to build our society.

    Pamela noted we could do more to diversify our workforces by improving the levels of mathematics literacy throughout the education system.  Many digital products and solutions would benefit from greater diversity in thinking. This can only come from a more diverse workforce. We need to change the pedagogy of teaching and learning. If we want a wider range of people to engage in the tech sector, we need to figure out how to teach them better!


    …. but we also need more, affordable, technology

    On availability of devices, we agreed that the government in New Zealand had moved quickly to get devices out to kids who needed them for home-learning.  However, there were discrepancies between top-performing schools and those in lower socio-economic parts of our communities. Janelle has worked to support the Ministry of Education in getting devices out the door; the government ordered the kit for connectivity to support the new ways of learning but these arrived too late. Often the schools had already gone back and, in a large number of cases, users struggled to access platforms and materials due to weak internet connectivity.

    On affordability, Pamela shared how this is a further barrier for many students. Some families simply do not have space for home-learning. Many have economic priorities higher than the, often prohibitive, costs of an internet connection. Even at University and College level, students struggled to access the platforms needed for online learning. There is a huge divide between the well-off and the non well-off.

    On internet accessibility, Kim highlighted how Internet NZ were pushing for ‘internet for all and internet for good’ whilst trying to address affordability and connectivity issues in Aotearoa. The government needs to invest into this space. Having access to reliable internet should be as common as access to a reliable power connection. As a country we are not there yet.

    Elena shared that we need to take an “inside out approach”. We need to reimagine a future state where those that are impacted most by exclusion can work alongside community leaders to design solutions that reflect the needs of all.

    • Policy and decision makers need to visibly ‘walk the talk’.
    • Encourage our entrepreneurs to do amazing things within the public sector
    • Work closely with the movers and shakers to diversify our workforces
    • Amplify the work and leadership of those already driving change in our communities to drive for greater digital inclusion”

    This Meet-Up was a session that sparked immense curiosity among those of us not exposed to the education sector, The conversation wasn’t about ‘how can we get more women into tech/identity’. Nor was it about ‘what is the best digital identity technology out there today’.

    It was, at its core, about our communities and how we serve them better. As one attendee commented:


    This has been an enlightening discussion for me on the wide-ranging considerations around identity.  It has made me question my approach to “Digital Identity” which started quite narrowly on the basis of what individuals need to get verified online in a national system, often in order to access basic systems like government services, banking, etc.


    Identity is about real people in all their diverse communities and we must ensure that every aspect of their ‘identity’ is considered – not just the elements attributed to them by their government.

    A sincere and personal thank you to everyone who participated in this event.

  • Article

    Why PRIDE matters to me

    I grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, raised a Catholic by Mum and Dad and attended chur see more

    I grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, raised a Catholic by Mum and Dad and attended church until I left secondary school at age 17. Looking back on it now, it was obvious from a young age that I wasn’t ‘straight’. You know the type… a tomboy; never liked dolls; played lots of sport; was the first girl ever to make the cricket team in primary school. Despite all the obvious ‘signs’, I didn’t realise my sexuality until I was in my early 20’s and, even then, it took a few years for me to pluck up the courage to do anything about it. 

    I recall my prevailing emotion was shame. I was scared of being rejected by my family. 

    Sometimes in life you need a little help and mine came in the form of (my now best friend) Jon. I met him through my first proper job working at BP. He was out and he was confident and he helped me to take those first furtive steps out of the closet.

    Together with Jon, we managed to find our tribe, a group of misfits if ever you saw them. We loved to dance and would hop from gay bar to gay club every weekend. I felt safe, but in truth I still wasn’t out – neither at home nor at work.


    Celebrating at Mardi Gras

    Around that time, I went to my first Mardi Gras – a huge LGBT event in Sydney. It’s hard to explain the excitement of it all: planning different outfits to wear to the parade, the party and all the various other social gatherings I rocked up to. At that time the gay centre of Sydney was Oxford Street, Paddington, and it was extraordinary to see every kind of queer person walking down it. 

    It was the first time in my whole life that I truly felt like I fitted in. The parade was like nothing I’d ever seen with hundreds of thousands of spectators all celebrating together. A hugely life-affirming weekend. 

    And yet, as I recall,  I told neither my work colleagues nor any of my family where I had been nor how amazing it had made me feel.

    Fast forward one year and another Mardi Gras under my belt. I was ‘out’ to my siblings but not to my parents, though I suspect they knew. I guess it was a bit of a “Don’t ask; Don’t tell” policy. 


    Then life threw us a curve ball. 

    My Mum got cancer. It started in the lungs but spread everywhere. 

    In her last days I told her who I was. It was hard, but I am glad I did it. But it was only at her funeral that I learned from one of her good friends that Mum had always known – but wanted to wait for me to tell her myself. 

    I was just 23.


    A sense of belonging

    pride flagsI know lots of kids choose not to share things with the parents – it’s almost ‘de rigeur’ for teenagers.  But I do regret that I was too scared to share this fundamental part of my identity. Today when I see young, queer, adults brimming full of self-confidence, I know it is in some way because of all those who trod that path before and made the decision not to hide. 

    But I also know there are some kids whose families – for whatever reason – still struggle to accept who they are. For them, seeing people from all walks of life celebrating life at Pride is a huge boost to realising they are not alone.

    It certainly helped me. 

    By most measures, I have had a successful career. Maybe not linear but I have worked for great companies in Melbourne and in London, the city I now call home. Today, I do my best to bring my authentic self to work. 

    In short: I am upfront that I am married … to my amazing wife, Jo, and I choose never to work for an organisation that doesn’t accept me for who I am. But things were not always like that for me and we all know that homophobic and transphobic discrimination still takes place across the world.

    In the US

    • 20% of LGBTQ Americans have experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity when applying for jobs. 
    • 32% of LGBTQ people of colour are more likely to experience sexual discrimination than white LGBTQ people (13%).
    • 22% of LGBTQ Americans have not been paid equally or promoted at the same rate as their peers

    The statistics in the UK tell a similar story: 

    More than a third of LGBT staff (35%) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination.

    • One in ten black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT employees (10%) have been physically attacked by customers or colleagues in the last year.

    When I started working for Barclays just 6 years ago, it was the first time I had ever worked for an organisation with an LGBT employee resource group. I got involved, amazed to know that the business wanted people to be truly open about who they were. For a few years I helped coordinate our involvement in London Pride. It was fun; it was exhausting but walking down Oxford Street with 200 of your colleagues and thousands of people cheering you on is an exhilarating experience. After one particular march a friend told me that, as a result of seeing the Barclays march, a friend of a particular colleague had finally found the courage to come out to his family

    For a young guy or girl, seeing organisations of all shapes and sizes from large corporates like Barclays and the London Metropolitan Police to the Gay Man’s Choir, tells them that, whoever they are, they deserve their place in the world. By hosting and celebrating Pride, we also send a message to the world that we are open, diverse and accepting of all. 

    But the sad facts remain that

    • 68 countries in the world ban sex between same-sex, consenting adults
    • 12 of these countries impose the Death Penalty as potential punishment.
    • Earlier this year the High Court in Singapore dismissed a bid to overturn a law that prohibits gay sex.
    • And, even when it is not illegal, State-sanctioned homophobic activity is on the rise in many countries – including Poland where ⅓ of towns and cities are self-declared LGBT-free zones


    Our work is not done!

    I describe Pride to my sister as a “Gay Christmas”. It is a time of year when we outwardly and openly celebrate who we are. AND it is a time of protest. It reminds us not only of how far we have come but also how far we still have to go. 

    When I think back to that 20 year-old me, I know that, without Pride and the Mardi Gras, I would have struggled to find those people who looked – and felt – just like me. The people who helped me realise I have an absolute right to be here. 

    If only my Mum could see me now!

    Happy Pride Everyone!



    sarahSarah Munro

    Sarah Munro is a Product Development Leader, but like many came to Digital Identity through happenstance (a redundancy led to a new role / opportunity), but has spent the last 6 years developing Identity solutions in the UK. Sarah is considered subject matter expert on the subject, speaking at various events and has provided contributions to papers, including for the Open Identity Exchange and the World Economic Forum. Additionally, Sarah is a proud member of the LGBT community, having been part of employee resource groups and currently sits on the board of an LGBT charity, as such is very much interested in the intersectionality between women and LGBT communities. Sarah is married to Jo and has made London her home, though still prefers vegemite on her toast and was drinking flat whites a long time before they were introduced in the UK by her fellow antipodean compatriots.

  • Article

    Navigating #GoodID in the age of COVID-19

    On April 8, 2020, GoodID held a Twitter chat centered on COVID-19 and the wide-reaching implications see more

    On April 8, 2020, GoodID held a Twitter chat centered on COVID-19 and the wide-reaching implications of the global pandemic on various digital identity issues including privacy, human rights, e-government, inclusion/exclusion and user control. Women in Identity Co-Founder, Emma Lindley was one of several contributors leading the debate so we asked her what were her main takeaways from the afternoon’s discussions.

    1. There is increasing awareness of the need for digital identity across healthcare solutions. Pre-COVID19, this sector had been largely absent from Identity debates, most of which centred on government and financial services. Governments have to decide what personal data is needed to support clinical and public health needs – not the other way round.
    2. We’ve been talking about ‘Know Your Patient’ programmes for a while but the pandemic has also spawned a raft of tracking apps which need careful consideration. It’s not clear how effective many of these tracking apps actually are in helping slow down the disease. In order to work optimally, they require a high percentage of the population to download and use the app. There needs to be much greater transparency over what the incentive is – particularly if users are being asked to provide sensitive personal data. How will that information be used, today and in the future? And, most importantly, we need clear information over whether use of these apps is actually helping slow down infection and, ultimately, death rates.
    3. We need to ensure that tech developments to combat COVID19 do not cause surveillance risks and protect privacy. Access Now has released a series of human rights-centric recommendations on privacy and data protection in the fight against the disease, arguing that protecting digital rights also promotes public health. Governments must ensure that principles of data protection are upheld, particularly the anonymisation of patients/suspected infections by healthcare and security personnel.
    4. We need to focus much more on educating people about the strategic value of their “identity”. Education is critical and people are vulnerable right now – particularly those already marginalised or at risk of stigmatisation. If people do not understand what is happening with their data, neither policy nor protection law can ever work.
    5. Most significantly, governments need to be sure they have thought about the unintended consequences of introducing emergency measures too quickly. There is a danger that, in the haste to find solutions, we overlook the under-represented, minority groups and those who simply feel marginalised from society. ID systems vendors must actively engage with inclusivity e.g. avoid over-reliance on data shared from smart phones or lack of access to immigrant populations. The future health of all nations depends on it.

    You can follow the full chat on “Navigating #GoodID in the age of COVID-19” at https://mobile.twitter.com/i/events/124818784225945190


    event banner

     April 27, 2020
  • Francesca Hobson posted an article

    The Year We Had to Rethink How Conferences Worked

    The last couple of weeks, I have watched as Covid-19, aka the Corona Virus, has wreaked havoc on the see more

    The last couple of weeks, I have watched as Covid-19, aka the Corona Virus, has wreaked havoc on the conference circuit. Already this year, major conferences have been cancelled or postponed. To avoid communicating the infection, shows including the Adobe Summit, Mobile World Congress, and the Gartner CIO Symposium have fallen by the virus’s sword (or protein shell). The list is long, and no doubt impactful on the shows’ organisers and the people who were looking forward to talking and mingling and generally being educated on their subject matter.

    Covid-19, may be a conference party pooper, but I for one am glad that the virus has stopped us in our conference tracks.

    As a person with a chronic health condition that sometimes makes travelling difficult, the situation with Covid-19 only reminds me of how the conference circuit is often out of reach for certain sectors of society. So, I am taking this opportunity to explain why conferences can be elitist and how we can make them more inclusive for all.


    The Chronically Ill and Conferences

    In the 6 months up to March 2012, I flew to Australia, the USA, and a number of European countries to attend or talk at conferences. I felt like I lived on a plane. I liked it too. I got to meet industry colleagues, hear amazing people talk, and was able to build my domain expertise through shared knowledge. I had it all. The conference circuit was enlightening and fun and it was MINE!

    Around the same time as this intense period of conference going, I became seriously ill. When I think back to what initiated the disease that was to change my life, it seems to fit with a bug I got at a conference in Dallas. I can’t be sure; but certainly, that moment was a defining point in my life.

    Between 2012 and 2019 I was simply unable to go to any more conferences. Last year, I attended a single conference – as a panellist at Think Digital Partners in London.

    Then, in January this year, I was due to present at Data Sharing Days organised by WiD member, Mariane ter Veen. But, in the run up to the event, I started to have health issues. My disease has progressed over the years from acute to chronic and now I have an on/off struggle with mobility. I was placed under physio and upped my meds to get on top of the problem. As the conference neared, I realised I would not be able to travel. So, I contacted Mariane.

    Instead of dropping me from the agenda, she coordinated a remote session to allow me to speak.

    She gave me my voice back.

    On the day of the show, instead of standing up and talking directly to the audience in The Hague, I gave my presentation to the packed room – from the comfort of my own laptop.


    Tech Conferences for All

    Being disabled or suffering from a chronic illness; being financially inhibited or with family responsibilities should not actively bar women – and men – from playing an active part in industry events. In her tweet, writer Karrie Higgins makes a telling comparison with the current state of play regards Covid-19, conferences and being disabled.


    Conferences in the tech industry have up until now been run primarily for those who can afford them, have the ability to travel to them, or the lifestyle to include them. Unwittingly they have been exclusive, focussed on those privileged enough to be able to attend. But this leads to agendas that end up the ‘same’ with little innovative or representation of different perspectives. In the identity industry, we have a special responsibility to include those who are more representative of the ultimate users of our digital identity solutions. That means looking for speakers who can present different ways of thinking about the problems we are solving.

    I know that there will be many reading this who live with disability and chronic illness and yet travel the world for work. I know this because I did it. But it pushes us to the limits of our endurance – and our health. But there are different ways to bring people together – already in use in other sectors of the economy.

    Neuroscientists last year hosted a global ‘Twitter’ symposia and academics in environmental science are experimenting with the “Nearly Carbon Neutral Conference Model (NCN)”. Surely we can take the best of their learnings and apply the same to our technology events, creating agendas and speaker programmes that are truly inclusive of all?


    “NCN conference was arguably much simpler (and certainly less expensive) than a traditional, fly-in event, especially as there is no need to coordinate air and ground transportation, hotel accommodations, catering, venue and audio-visual setup, conference dinners, and so forth. It does, however, require a modicum of digital expertise.”


    A ‘modicum of digital expertise?

    Correct me if I am wrong, but as a veteran of the tech industry, I am sure we do have some of that ol’ ‘digital expertise’!!




    susanSusan Morrow

    Having worked in cybersecurity, identity, and data privacy for around 35 years, Susan has seen technology come and go; but one thing is constant – human behaviour. She works to bring technology and humans together. 

    Find her @avocoidentity

     March 11, 2020
  • Francesca Hobson posted an article

    International Women’s Day at Women in Identity

    Why do we need International Women’s Day? see more

    Why do we need International Women’s Day?

    IWD began back in 1911 and has been held annually ever since. While, in many ways, gender parity has come a long way, 2020 still presents countless challenges for women to be treated equally with men worldwide. These include, but are certainly not limited to, the gender pay gap, violence against women and bias in research affecting women’s lives (such as health and technology).

    This year, on March 8th, organisations and individuals worldwide will celebrate the invaluable contributions that women make to society. We will be inspired by stories of progress and how they could relate to our own situations, and we’ll be encouraged to uplift those women in our lives who may need our support – however small.


    Women in Identity and International Women’s Day

    The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.

    [Quote from Gloria Steinem]

    Women in Identity (WiD) is one such organisation striving for equality. Not just for the benefit of gender non-discrimination, but also to assist those organisations that develop and use digital identity solutions. We believe that end users will benefit from more diverse teams creating solutions because we ultimately create services that work for all.

    View our vision, mission and values here.

    Our work predominantly supports three of IWD’s key missions:

    1. To celebrate digital advancement and champion the women forging innovation through technology
    2. To champion women of all backgrounds who dare to innovate, lead, and uplift others towards a more equal and inclusive workplace
    3. To support women to earn and learn on their own terms and in their own way


    Being a woman in identity

    Francesca and EstherI love being part of the identity industry, solving challenges to user experience and security for client organisations. Being a woman in identity, it’s often strikingly obvious how outnumbered we are at conferences, in discussion rooms etc.  But we need diverse workforces to bring a variety of approaches and expertise if we are to cater for diverse sets of users.

    I think it’s easy to be passive about the problem of lack of diversity: “I’m not biased so I don’t need to change anything I’m doing” or “the problem is getting better already”.  But for real change to happen fast, we need to be proactive in finding ways to help everyone understand what it is that prevents diversity in our sector and, together, learn what steps we can take to remove inherent biases. That’s why I joined Women in Identity.

    Of course it’s not all bad – identity conferences are usually one of the few events without a queue for the ladies’ toilets! And I’ve met an amazing group of women and men who do inspirational work every day.


    Join us

    Create a free member profile here – everyone is welcome to join and participate in our community.

    Get involved in our online forums, follow us on social media, or meet us at events! Find out where we are here.

    And don’t forget to join the IWD social media campaigns on Twitter using #IWD2020 and #EachforEqual!



    francesca"/Francesca Hobson

    Francesca entered the world of digital identity in December 2018 as Content Marketing Manager at Ubisecure, originally based in Heidelberg (Germany) and now in Manchester (UK). In this role, Francesca drives content and related marketing activities at Ubisecure, across its business regions – including the Nordics, the UK, Benelux, DACH and the US.

    Francesca has always been passionate about feminist issues, writing her BA Classical Civilisation dissertation on the portrayal of female sexuality in ancient Athens as a means to justify the patriarchy – a subject that, in many ways, still resonates today!

    Francesca got involved with Women in Identity after attending its official launch in 2019 and was inspired by the brilliant work its founders were doing to promote diversity in the identity industry. She is now a member of the  WiD leadership team, managing the website content.

     March 02, 2020
  • Francesca Hobson posted an article

    Emma Lindley summits Mt Toubkal in support of Africa’s Women in Identity

    Hot on the heels of our announcement with ID4Africa, we’re delighted to tell you that Emma Lindley h see more

    Hot on the heels of our announcement with ID4Africa, we’re delighted to tell you that Emma Lindley has successfully summitted Mt Toubkal!

    As you may have seen on our social media these past few weeks, Women in Identity Co-Founder, Emma Lindley, is raising funds to support two female African civil servants to attend ID4Africa’s Annual Meeting by climbing the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains.

    Donations will support ID4Africa’s commitment to a diverse delegation, extending the funds available to meet demand for subsidised attendees. In an earlier comment,  Dr. Joseph J. Atick, Executive Chairman of ID4Africa, said “While ID4Africa, through its Fellowship Program, already financially supports the attendance of a large number of African women, the demand always exceeds available funds. That is why this initiative by the Women in Identity community to provide additional means for women, who would not be otherwise able to attend, is laudable.”


    emma looking out at the view


    emma selfie on the mountainEmma set off on her climb early on the morning of Tuesday 18th November and, clad in WiD-branded swag, was sending through updates via (surprisingly good at 4000m elevation) 4G. Following intense training and spurred on by the fantastic news that the initial fundraising target has been exceeded(!), she has made Women in Identity proud – seriously, we’re welling up over here.

    Thank you so much to everyone who has donated so far. Let’s see if we can raise even more funds and send yet another fantastic woman in identity to ID4Africa! Donate via our GoFundMe page to support Women in Identity’s vision for diverse collaborations – “digital identity solutions built for everyone are built by everyone.”

     November 19, 2019
  • Francesca Hobson posted an article

    Women in Identity announced as Strategic Partner for Identity Summit London 2020

    London, United Kingdom – 12 November 2019 – Goode Intelligence (www.goodeintelligence.com) is deligh see more

    London, United Kingdom – 12 November 2019 – Goode Intelligence (www.goodeintelligence.com) is delighted to announce Women in Identity as its Strategic Partner for Identity Summit London 2020 on Thursday 30 January, hosted by Rise London.

    Identity Summit London 2020 will showcase the latest innovations and technology in identity, featuring keynotes, demonstrations and panels with experts and practitioners across government and consumer identity with case studies across a wide variety of industries, organisations and products.  Emma Lindley, Co-founder of Women in Identity will be speaking and chairing a panel session on diversity and inclusion in identity at the summit.  15 complimentary tickets are being made available to members of Women in Identity to ensure that those who otherwise may not have been able to attend can participate and contribute to the day.  More details on how to apply for one of these tickets is available by emailing events@womeninidentity.org

    “Ensuring that diversity is embraced across the identity industry is fundamental to addressing the question of effectively and securely identifying people online. We need to enable ALL people to perform digital tasks in a safe and secure manner,” said Alan Goode, CEO & Chief Analyst, Goode Intelligence.  “That’s why we are delighted to welcome Women in Identity as our Strategic Partner for the London Summit.  As key representatives of the campaign for inclusion and diversity in the identity industry, Women in Identity brings an important perspective to the discussions that will be taking place.”

    “If the identity sector doesn’t start taking diversity seriously, its products will fail for whole sections of the population.  And that will mean governments having to pick up the pieces and ensure availability of finance and essential services for all. We are delighted to support Goode Intelligence in bringing these issues to the fore at this important forum,” said Emma Lindley, Co-Founder, Women in Identity.

    For more information about Identity Summit London 2020, and to register, please visit: https://events.eventzilla.net/e/identity-summit-london-2020-2138736792


    About Women in Identity:

    Women in Identity was founded in 2019 to inspire, elevate and support our members to help create a more diverse workforce across the identity industry. From support through coaching, mentoring and access to job boards to research and product testing we aim to ensure that digital identity solutions built for everyone are built by everyone – to the exclusion of no one, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age or status.



    About Goode Intelligence:

    Goode Intelligence is a leading identity and biometrics research and consulting organisation founded in 2007 and based in London. For more information about Goode Intelligence please visit www.goodeintelligence.com


    For information about Identity Summit London 2020 contact:

    Michelle Goode, Chief Operating Officer, Goode Intelligence

    Tel: +44(0) 203 633 1269 Email: michelle.goode@goodeintelligence.com

    Web: https://www.goodeintelligence.com/london-2020/


    Issued by:

    Goode Intelligence



    event banner


     November 12, 2019
  • Francesca Hobson posted an article

    Why we salute Women in Identity – ID4Africa

    Comment by Dr. Joseph J. Atick, Executive Chairman, ID4Africa see more

    Comment by Dr. Joseph J. Atick, Executive Chairman, ID4Africa


    I was most impressed when the Women In Identity team approached us to see whether they could help out for our next Annual Meeting – ID4Africa 2020. Not the usual proposal of a keynote speaker or promotion, but a plan to send one of their founder members, Emma Lindley, off to climb the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains – Mt Toubkal. She is aiming to raise funds to support a few African civil servants to attend the Annual Meeting. At an elevation just over 4000 meters, this is the highest mountain in N Africa and during the winter months it’s certainly no trivial feat! But I understand Emma is not one to be easily deterred by such monumental quests.

    In our own quest to advance capacity-building in Africa, we strive to make the ID4Africa Annual Meeting accessible to all Africans – regardless of gender, status or limiting factors. For this reason we maintain a free registration policy for all government delegates and cover the attendance expenses of African government delegates in need. At ID4Africa 2020, gender equity in identity systems is a core subject being covered and we are committing to having women more strongly represented at the event to ensure we have a balanced debate that reflects all voices. While ID4Africa, through its Fellowship Program, already financially supports the attendance of a large number of African women, the demand always exceeds available funds. That is why this initiative by the Women in Identity community to provide additional means for women, who would not be otherwise able to attend, is laudable.


    photos of event


    Asked why Mt Toubkal, Emma answered “We usually do something every year to raise funds for charity (most often it’s a mountain climb or a run of some kind!). This year it made sense to do something to connect the development of Women In Identity with the representation of African women in the ID sector as a whole. At Women In Identity we believe that identity solutions for everyone should be built by everyone. ID4Africa is a movement whose mission we strongly believe in. It would be absolutely amazing if my sore feet can raise the funds to give a few African women the opportunity to be represented and voice their nation’s concerns at the 2020 Annual General Meeting in Marrakech, 2-4 June. The trip is self-funded, so we will be donating 100% of everything that is raised.”


    At Women In Identity we believe that identity solutions for everyone should be built by everyone.

     November 11, 2019
  • Francesca Hobson posted an article

    Women in Identity hosts first Netherlands meetup

    The first Dutch meetup, which was held last month and hosted at and sponsored by iWelcome, was a hug see more

    The first Dutch meetup, which was held last month and hosted at and sponsored by iWelcome, was a huge success. The main ingredients: 29 women, introductions over coffee, presentations by 4 wonderful speakers, interactive sessions and a barbecue where conversations kept going.


    Being a female CISO in a man’s world

    Barbara Mandl started us off with an inspiring and fun introduction to the objectives of Women in Identity, blending the story with her own experiences as a CISO at Daimler. Although some progress has been made since she was introduced as ‘token woman’ at an identity conference where she was the first female speaker, there’s still a lot of work to do. Women in senior positions often need to perform better to be taken just as seriously as male colleagues. One of her takeaways for the audience: “Always be consistent.” If you promise to deliver something at a certain moment in time, do it or inform in a timely manner that there are complications. This will help you to be perceived as reliable.


    Pitfalls in digital transformation

    Olga Kulikova, Information Security Manager at KPMG, was up next. Fun fact: when she started at KPMG 7 years ago, she was the first woman in the cybersecurity team. A lot has changed since then and today she has multiple female colleagues.

    Olga shared her insights around digital transformation with us, including ‘70% of digital transformation projects lead to nothing’. One of the obstacles is communication between IT and business and a change in ownership. Where IT used to lead, today projects are often driven by the business and both disciplines have different views. The main issues that shouldn’t be underestimated are the continuous need for technical refreshment, special requirements for access for B2B & third parties and Shadow IT.


    women holding flowers


    Reusable eIDs and what your first name reveals about you

    One of the hard-core women in the Dutch Identity scene is Esther Makaay. As a proposition developer for log-in solutions provider Connectis and for .nl registry SIDN, she is an authority on the subject of digital identities. She started with an example to get the audience thinking on how ‘innocent’ attributes, such as your first name, reveal much more about you than just that attribute. If you analyse first names based on popularity in certain periods of time, you are already able to make quite an accurate guess of someone’s age.

    After this insight she shared a guide to the landscape of reusable eIDs in the private, public and hybrid domain, and addressed the questions of what the unique identifier is in each case and what the pitfalls are. Her very clear conclusion was that in today’s world the existing eIDs don’t comply anymore: we need delegation and mandates!


    Digital Identities: should I know your name?

    Last but not least, Jikkelien van Marle, Strategic Program Manager Consumers at Dutch Post, took to the stage. She showed how Dutch Post recognises its 5 million customers, sometimes without even knowing their name, based on other identifiers – such as address. She also showed how Dutch Post works on excellent customer experiences in order to become the favourite deliverer (based on the remarks in the audience they already are) with advanced ‘delivery passports’, where consumers can select preferences around delivery of their packages, including ‘safe spots’ or which neighbours to deliver to when they’re not at home. The presentation made clear that large companies can offer excellent service while protecting consumer’s privacy.


    How to make identity more attractive to women

    The official programme ended with sessions in 3 groups, where participants could discuss topics that they have submitted themselves upon registration. In a short plenary recap the groups share their insights around making identity more attractive to women: a lot can be done around schooling and coaching – maybe we can bring the community to students. However, setting an example and showing that the women are actually here as visible role models is also an important step.

    Other topics that have been discussed are the importance of documentation to close the gap between the techies and the conceptual IAM professionals, identity trends like private sharing apps where consumers are in control of what they share and as a final conclusion: the need for more meetups!


    women around meeting table



    estherEsther Hoeksema

    I've been working in identity for almost 3 years now and I really love it. In my current role I'm responsible for marketing at iWelcome. Because of my marketing background, I'm very interested in the consumer side of Identity, zooming in on the ideal customer journey, preference management and GDPR requirements. As such, I have been heavily involved in iWelcome’s GDPR research. Besides working at iWelcome I'm active in the Women in Identity community as Country Ambassador for the Netherlands.

     October 28, 2019
  • Francesca Hobson posted an article

    Savita Bailur and Hélène Smertnik: Researching Women and Identification in a Digital Age

    What do you do in the industry? What does caribou digital do? see more

    What do you do in the industry? What does caribou digital do? 

    Savita: I’ve worked with Caribou Digital for 4 years now. As part of the research team, I lead research projects of experiences of digital life - we’ve worked on overall online use by lower income demographics in emerging economies (what we used to call “ICT4D”!), digital financial services but also increasingly “identification in a digital age” - this might be a good time to say we prefer to use the phrase “identification in a digital age” rather than “digital identity” - see our colleague Jonathan’s great piece on the terminology and why).

    Hélène in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya

    Hélène in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya

     Just the other day, we realised we’ve now conducted fieldwork in over ten countries on “ID” (to use the shorthand): a few of those are Kenya, Uganda, Bangladesh, Côte d'Ivoire, India, Lebanon and Thailand, working with clients such as Omidyar, Aus Aid, World Bank, UNICEF and the Gates Foundation. In addition to conducting the research, we share our findings and advise on relevant strategy and policy both in the public and private sector. Caribou Digital has a much wider scope of work (all around supporting ethical digital economies in emerging markets), which you can see on cariboudigital.net but that’s just us on the research side!

    Hélène: I’ve been working with Caribou Digital for 2 years, conducting research and leading ground work, mainly on identification questions in countries across Africa and Asia. I don't really have a typical week, but a cycle of work through projects. It starts with from pre-field research - working with Savita on the framing of the research and setting everything up for ground work including finding local partners to the fieldwork itself and then post-field wrap up. 


    How do you determine where you run the research?

    S: We start at a high level determining the intent and scope first for clients (what is it we are trying to find out?), and after we work on the details collaboratively. We think about the demographics to work with - we know qualitative research (which Helene and I largely do) is not meant to be representative, but we do need to think about who we talk to - a typical cross-section may be “expert” interviewees, middlemen/women who are intermediaries (e.g. mobile money agents) and the “end users” either in focus groups or more in-depth interviews. We don’t really like the term end users (we are just humans!) but I guess that’s the shorthand. Then Helen mobilises the teams. She’s fantastic at finding the people on the ground and building up trusting relationships with people. We always try to do a pilot study so we can test and refine questions and demographics. Ethics are paramount to us so we make sure we go through a code of conduct with partners, and consent with respondents.

    H: Savita has such a wealth of experience in the topic. She knows what the important issues are which haven't been thoroughly researched yet and sees where processes are inefficient.


    What do companies look for when they come to you?

    H: They are not always companies - they can also be foundations, governments, NGOs etc. Often they come from a perspective of wanting to know more about end users’ experiences, as often they haven't been looking at the issues at stake at the same granular level that we get with our qualitative research. With Unicef it's been a unique piece of work looking at youth and adolescence and the overlap between identification and identity. I was interviewing a child who was 10 years old in a refugee camp in Lebanon, who was acutely aware of what ID is and the need for documents. I've found the more privileged the child the less aware they are of identification documents and their use. This child told me: 'it's the document that my dad takes to work with him every day', as this is a key enabler of their rights to move around in the country. That's generally not an issue for children in more privileged communities.

    S: It's certainly a challenging and delicate subject to address when doing field research. To find out how access to identification affects people on the ground requires good rapport and a large dose of empathy, which Helene is brilliant at. They key is asking questions without being intrusive - imagine if some random person came and started asking you questions on your identification documents - how would you feel?


    What areas are you working on next then?

    S:  Well, we’re just wrapping up our in-depth ID research in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka on women, work and ID, funded by Aus Aid. It was part of the Commonwealth Identity Initiative with GSMA and the World Bank. Next we’re starting research with Gates on how digital financial service principles they established (Level One) may have a different impact on women, including interoperability in mobile money - I do think this will also bring up gender and ID issues, like around KYC (whose ID is used to register a SIM?). We’ll be working in Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire.


    From your research you’ve identified 5 fundamental barriers of access for women. You must see great variation in use of identification between countries depending on the availability information, access, ownership, societal expectations and intersectionality?


    Savita in Abengourou, rural Côte d'Ivoire

    Savita in Abengourou, rural Côte d'Ivoire


    S: Yes, these barriers vary between countries, depending on everything from infrastructure to social norms.That’s why we keep saying you can’t just go in and dump a new “digital ID” system - you have to do some user research. For example, we have enough evidence now that people get nervous around biometrics, especially women in some cultures when they are touched - can we address that issue? Or that even if women have their own ID, it may be the men in their families who keep them - how do we address this

    H: We saw in Bangladesh that often women didn't have the time to go and access services, as they were looking after their families, or they didn't have the means to travel. Depending on the type of work they’re doing, this may or not be an issue, but it does become a barrier at some points.


    What will you be speaking about at ID2020? 

    S:  ID2020 reached out to me to do a keynote, which was nice as they come from a more private sector angle (e.g. the alliance includes Accenture, Microsoft, Rockefeller and many others). So it’s a good audience to take our “end user” research to. Our work brings forward end user research and adds the perspective of the human voice. We’re telling the story of Humans of ID, layering it in with the context of increasingly digital societies in emerging markets. It’s a story that all of us can relate to, as identity and identification go back to the beginnings of humanity.


    What brought you into this field?

    H: I still find it fascinating that we all live and breathe identity all the time. I now notice it everywhere - whether it’s a clothing collection launch on Instagram called ‘ID’ or in films like Capernaum. We all have a unique identity story that defines us and you can see that in culture globally. 

    S: All of us who have moved around the world can relate to the identification issue (I was born in India, moved to the UK, now in the USA, and at various points had all that change codified in documents and credentials). 

    There are so many stories about identification in the bureaucratic sense and how it crosses over with identity - the film Lion for example, or the Tom Hanks The Terminal,  or the book Educated (Tara Westover) where she grows up in an American family without a birth certificate and is home schooled, so she has no ID at all but how she navigates that. Two powerful pieces of journalism struck me just this year. One was about an Iraqi boy who is reunited with mother after years, thanks to different types of identification. Another was Azeteng’s story of human trafficking through West Africa. When his Guinean friend Sekou is murdered by the human smugglers, Azeteng keeps his ID. The journalist asks him why he keeps Sekou’s ID. He says: “that is someone’s son, someone’s brother, who knows, maybe even someone’s father,” he said. “I asked myself, how will his family know that he is dead? So I am trying my best for the family to be aware.” 

    We are becoming such a globalised society and many are stateless for one reason or another - if you're a migrant worker who’s newly arrived in a new city, but don’t have the right ID you can be completely isolated from applying to jobs (look at the IDNYC by the way  - really interesting case). We often take our access to services and help for granted, but the additional challenge is a lot of people don't have the time or ability to sort these issues out for themselves. 


    It must be striking seeing how ID isn’t just a means to accessing essential rights, but also impacts on heritage?

    S: Absolutely, on Sri Lankan tea estates workers used to be given numbers not names when they were born. Honestly, a lot of the identification issues are legacies of colonialism and the carving up of countries - the complex case of Cote d’Ivoire for example where the Burkinabe communities have settled in Cote d’Ivoire but are not considered Ivorian. Or what is happening in Assam. Or even the appalling Windrush case - we need to face up to the fact that identification is also a question of power with terrible consequences. And we cannot make the same mistakes again and again by classifying people in a particular way.

    H: You start to see the impact of these problems through generations, for example where parents are displaced or lose their identification documents. The barriers faced from your own access to ID often then has an impact on your children’s experience. Consistently we see identification is an essential enabler for social and economic inclusion, though sometimes it isn’t thought about as such and taken for granted.


    When you present to private sector organisations, what do you find surprises people the most?

    A woman registering for a bank account in Assam, India for Caribou Digital’s Identities Research

    A woman registering for a bank account in Assam, India for Caribou Digital’s Identities Research

    S: Often the private sector have a totally different angle as their primary concern with identification for a single task or service. It’s a one time necessity and it’s not their job to think about the ethical issues that may arise from how people use it.

    H: We question the role of the private sector in our research - are they responsible for people’s accessing and using ID? Take the case of Sri Lankan online companies we spoke to - they may facilitate online work, like people creating a webpage or managing social media for a client. We’ve seen that these companies may not check the ID of the individual that signs up to do the task, unless it requires dealing with sensitive information. Is it that company’s job to educate the people who work on the platform about the importance of ID? Similarly, is it the role of factories to make sure that their employees have ID or is it better that they employ them as the employees need the money? Some companies mentioned they would try to create more awareness around financial inclusion - encouraging them to get access to formal bank or mobile money accounts.

    S: So we come back to the question, why do we need ID? There are a number of conversations going on about standards and interoperability, but someone pointed out to me the other day that passports are an universal system, but birth certificates are not. You can't check a birth certificate beyond making sure the hospital is real, as really you could create a fake one at home, and then a passport is often built off that. The other issue we saw is with voter ID, which is generally issued when parties are campaigning for an election - so in rural India, a political party may happily make you 18 so you vote for them. There's very little standardisation across the board, particularly concerning initial ID. 

    H: We're very conscious in the recommendations that we make to organisations that we think identification enables inclusion and growth, however, once the need for ID becomes mandatory, you may end up excluding people. 

    S: Yes, it raises the question, If you've got no ID then what happens? 


    You covered that experience in a number of your articles, what did you find?

    H: It really varies. In the research we just finished in Sri Lanka, there were a couple of people who didn't have ID. One used their sister’s ID until they could pay for the lawyer to get their ID sorted. The other person was a gentleman who was just getting by with cash and operating off the grid. In Bangladesh there were far more people “off the ID grid” and using other people's ID when they needed to access services.

    In Sri Lanka, Gayani (left) holds the old laminated paper ID and Rangala holds a new smart ID

    In Sri Lanka, Gayani (left) holds the old laminated paper ID and Rangala holds a new smart ID

    S: You see a number of systems and means of access are interdependent.  Cote d'Ivoire went through mandatory mobile SIM registration with a biometric ID (for national security) but it did impact on those who didn’t have a biometric ID. Most importantly, it meant they didn’t have access to mobile money. 

    H: Really the government were trying to push people to get the new biometric ID, and using that specific threat of cutting your mobile line is very strong. In our research, we’ve often found that one of the main drivers to getting an ID in the first place was to be able to own a SIM, so you see how strong that threat is. In addition, mobile money is dependent on your SIM so if you don't have access to a phone line then you can't use mobile money services (e.g. you can’t receive or send money, you can’t take small loans or make savings, through the platform).

    S: As a result, those who wouldn’t register for a biometric ID, would have to go through someone else to get their money, which becomes really risky. Researching these issues has made me realise that ID is the foundation for everything.


    Yes, and you hear of women having problems travelling with children if they haven’t changed their name.

    H: There’s a big - not explored enough -  issue with marriage, changing names, movement after marriage wherever you are in the world. In Kenya you choose whether you keep your father’s name or take your husbands, this decision can have significant impact later on. 

    S: Coming full circle on the women and ID issue you’re talking to us about - I do wonder if women face ID issues more than men, which is worsened by the lack of clarity on who do you go to for help (what we talk about in our blog). Just my example again, when my husband and I were trying to get married in the UK, as he was not a British national we faced a lot of challenges - we ran around asking so many different organisations, lost time from work, spent money on travel, but we were just ultimately reliant on individuals helping (or not!). Those who do are the true heroes keeping it together. In contrast, women are not supported in other countries always, which is why I keep going on about intermediaries - and that’s where the role of NGOs and females in advisory committees is so essential. There’s still a lot of both research and policy work for us to do when we talk of women and identification in a digital age.


    Find them at @SavitaBaliur and @HeleneSmertnik

    Read more of their work at cariboudigital.net 


     October 04, 2019