Calls for SA to introduce digital ID programme

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Martin Grunewald, chief business officer at BankservAfrica.
Martin Grunewald, chief business officer at BankservAfrica.

There is a growing need for a digital identity programme in SA, to reap more economic benefits from the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), says a new report released today.

The report, Digital Identity – A South African Journey, commissioned by BankservAfrica and compiled by PwC, maps out SA’s digital identity story, envisioning a more digital inclusive country.

Africa’s largest automated payments clearing house, BankservAfrica, has been working with banks, regulators and the financial and payments industry to create a digital identity programme for SA.

The report outlines the journey to date with the community of experts from the country’s leading financial services institutions, fintechs and the rest of the payments industry.

It notes that due to identity management’s critical role in the 4IR, there is a growing need for a digital identity programme in the country, adding the time has come for consumers, investors and the private and public sectors to work collectively to achieve the goal.

The launch of the report today comes on the back of fierce criticism that SA is missing out on the infinite opportunities presented by the mass adoption of a digital identification system.

Today, more than 70 countries have set up a national digital identity scheme in an effort to digitise government services for citizens, while seamlessly enabling access to private sector services such as insurance, banking, travel and healthcare.

The new report says: “Collaboration by all parties and stakeholders involved is fundamental to the success of a digital identity rollout in South Africa. With society demanding more from businesses and stakeholders, there is a greater need for the public and private sectors to work together to put the customer first, thereby giving the customer control of their own identity. It is no longer enough for each organisation to go its own way.”

Martin Grunewald, chief business officer at BankservAfrica, says: “Studies show that over a billion people globally in low- and middle-income countries do not have any form of legally-recognised identification. In South Africa, we can see the hard-hitting impact of limited access to essential services, from government benefits, to financial services, education and other critical services.

“By driving one conversation around developing a community-wide digital identity that citizens know and trust, we can build a more inclusive, digital economy and create the change needed at a societal level.”

According to the report, digital identity has the potential to meet “the evolving needs of South Africans and contribute indirectly towards addressing the high unemployment rate, low savings rates, income inequalities and structural deficiencies faced by the country”.

The report also unpacks the learnings from global digital identity programmes, sharing recommendations to enable a robust digital identity platform. Included are views on achieving sustainable growth, adoption and commercial viability in South Africa.

“Armed with insights and recommendations from the industry, we are ready to embark on our next chapter in South Africa’s digital identity story. The invitation is open to the community to join us in unlocking the full potential of a digital identity future,” says Grunewald.

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