This study, draws on interviews with 150 diverse individuals and dozens of professional stakeholders throughout India, to explore the complexity of identity practices in everyday life. It is a critical moment for conversations like these, since new digital systems, such as India’s Aadhaar, expand formal identity credentials to previously underserved communities, and into everyday identity practices in new ways. The report suggests the need for an increased and sharper focus on the experiences of everyday people with their identity credentials, viewing those credentials not as things to be adopted once, but rather used every day, in ways and with outcomes more heterogeneous and nuanced than narratives to date might suggest.
There is general agreement that formal identification credentials offer significant benefits to all. The Sustainable Development Goal 16.9 calls for “legal identity for all, including birth registration.” Yet, the World Bank estimates that over 1.1 billion people in the world lack proof of legal identity and even for those who have proof of identity, enrolling on and using these systems can be complex. Download the report here.