The Significance of a Patient Having a Health ID in Sub-Saharan Africa

The global landscape of identification (ID) is changing rapidly as technology is enabling the identification of individuals more rapidly and accurately. At the same time, the opportunities of the digital era are making it increasingly important, not to say critical, for every individual in all countries to be able to prove their identity. The need to have an ID has now become essential in areas ranging from financial inclusion, social protection, voting, education, migration, and also access to essential health care.
However, based on the World Bank’s identification for development (ID4D), more than 40 percent of those lacking IDs in the world live in Africa, thus further amplifying the growing global inequalities and economic divide faced by the emerging economies of the African continent.
For every individual to possess a personal identification is therefore crucial for both their wellbeing and future.

In 2015, the global objective of ensuring that everyone in the world has a legal identity was even included in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (target no.16.9) which form the basis and framework for global action and partnerships to improve the well-being of all individuals globally by 2030.
The rollout of traditional centralized identification frameworks in Africa is however still lacking and fraught with concerns over scalability, accessibility, accuracy, and also personal data protection, as a significant number of countries lack adequate personal data protection legislation.
In the last 18 months however, the Global Pandemic has increased the sense of emergency and further highlighted the importance for all individuals to not only possess an ID but also be identifiable for health purposes.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA’s) Digital Centre of Excellence, even insisted that African nations must be more intentional about developing digital identity systems especially as they look to rebuild stronger economies in the post-COVID-19.

So, in these challenging times, how can a nation-best address simultaneously the need for all individuals to have access to individual identification, own a health ID to support individual national and global health priorities needs, and also, directly address the concerns of data accuracy and data protection?