Digital ID systems promise to make life easier. With a digital ID, in theory, opening a bank account or accessing an agricultural subsidy is more efficient. But questions of who controls information collection, where data is stored, and how data is used present tremendous challenges for democracy. Digitally streamlined and interconnected systems, when designed inclusively and implemented with appropriate legal frameworks for data protection, can broaden opportunities for civic and political participation. Yet these centralized identification systems can just as easily be used as a weapon to coerce specific communities, perpetuate existing inequalities, and reinforce discrimination against marginalized communities who have been historically excluded from exercising their civic and political rights.
The goal of this paper is to understand how digital ID systems can impact individuals' abilities to exercise their civic and political rights, particularly for members of marginalized communities, and to provide recommendations for building inclusive, secure, and transparent ID systems. Despite a large body of research on digital ID's impacts on social and economic inclusion, a gap around the impacts on political participation remains. As governments digitize identification systems and electoral procedures and seek to connect them, it is crucial that any digital ID system upholds democratic principles of inclusion, privacy and security, and transparency.