LISTEN NOW: How is Digital Technology Affecting Identification?


Author: Sarah Corley

In this webinar, Emrys Schoemaker discusses some of the trends in digital identification, drawing from research conducted in national ID schemes, identification for refugees and approaches that map identity ecosystems.



Caribou Digital’s research has resulted in the development of a holistic approach that looks beyond just the ID itself but to the wider ecosystem which explores how the ID is used, the relationships that exist, and how factors such as technology, digital transformation, social norms and politics can impact the ecosystem. This approach helps to see how identification ecosystems can be made more inclusive and effective and protect individuals.

ID is not just a thing, it can have different uses and advantages and challenges, and at the heart of this likes two issues: power and trust. We need to be able to trust the validity of the ID but also trust that our information is being used in a way that respects our privacy.

Looking at ID through a transactional lens shows the user journeys and pathways, it explores the reasons that the ID is used to authenticate and approve. Spending time with users to explore these uses can bring to light challenges with trust, respect and privacy which otherwise have not been visible. Qualitative data is important to understand the connection between technology, systems and individuals.

The research has generated four lessons:

  1. Be clear about the benefits of the ID systems – often the benefits and users of ID schemes are seen as the institution, but the individual also needs to experience value
  2. Avoid mission creep – where a functional ID is launched with a specific purpose, and then it starts to be used for other purposes
  3. Politics predicts vulnerability – you can identify those who are vulnerable when looking at the whole ecosystem
  4. Design for protection – focus on the vulnerable first and include protection before designing the system

You can access the presentation used by Emrys here and also the research the refugee ID journey here. Emrys can be reached at and you are also encouraged to join DFI’s Digital Identity whatsapp group by clicking on this link.