Being able to prove who you are matters. Identification is a right, an instrument of protection, and a gateway to access services, benefits, and opportunities. Yet, many people around the world —particularly those living in lower-income countries and members of marginalized and vulnerable groups— do not have official identification to prove who they are. There are even more people who have an ID, but one that comes with many limitations regarding its design, verifiability, and use. Systems that provide people with identity credentials – whether for use in-person or online – are not always inclusive, trusted, or fit for purpose.
To tackle this challenge, it is important for the global community to gain a clearer view of who does and does not have an official ID and the features of ID systems and credentials globally. Since 2016, ID4D has produced global ID coverage estimates and data to help fill the gap on the number of people without proof of identity. New data collection efforts from 2021 onward have made it possible to provide more accurate and more disaggregated data on not only the ID coverage gap, but to also map ID systems’ digital capabilities [and additional features related to registration policies and processes, credential issuance, and use].
The latest edition of the ID4D Global Dataset indicates that approximately 850 million people around the world do not have an official ID. Many more do not have digitally verifiable identification. This includes at least 1.1. billion people who do not have a digital record of their identity; at least 1.25 billion people do not have a digitally verifiable identity; and at least 3.3 billion people do not have access to a government-recognized digital identity to securely transact online.
Global ID Coverage
Globally, an estimated 850 million people do not have official identification—primarily people in lower-income countries and marginalized and vulnerable groups.
- Most people without an ID live in low-income (LIC) and lower-middle-income (LMIC) economies in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
- Over half the population without official identification are children whose births have not been registered.
- Women living in LICs are 8 percentage points less likely to have an ID than men, although some improvements have been made in the gender gap in some economies over the last four years.
- The gap in ID ownership is also significant for other vulnerable groups: adults in LICs are less likely to have an ID when they are below 25 years old, have only primary schooling or less, are out of the workforce, are in the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution, and live in rural areas.
Multiple barriers contribute to difficulties obtaining an ID.
- Among adults living in low-income countries (LICs), the most frequently cited reason for not having an ID was documentary requirements (46 percent), followed by distance to registration points (44 percent), and high cost (40 percent).
- Such issues are compounded when cumbersome registration procedures require multiple visits, either by design or due to problems with understaffing or absenteeism, long-wait times, unclear policies or procedures, or technical failures.
Not having an ID can negatively impact people’s access to services and fulfillment of rights.
- Globally, around 1 in 3 of those without an ID reported difficulty using financial services, receiving financial support from the government, applying for a job, and voting in elections.
- Nearly 40 percent of those without an ID reported difficulties obtaining a SIM card or mobile phone service, while around 25 percent had problems receiving medical care.
Digital ID Capabilities
More than 90 of countries now have foundational ID systems underpinned by digital data.
- As of mid-2022, 186 (out of 198) countries have a foundational ID system where identity records are stored in a digital format.
- Around 375 million people still live in countries where identity records are predominantly paper-based, making them difficult or impossible to verify or replace, and susceptible to damage, loss, or fraud.
- Many countries that, as of recently, were primarily reliant on paper-based identity records are in the process of introducing digitized ID systems. The number of people relying on non-digitized systems and records for identity management is expected to decline rapidly in the coming years.
Two-thirds of countries globally have foundational ID systems that support some form of digital identity verification and/or authentication for in person services and transactions.
- Foundational ID systems in at least 132 countries support some form of digital identity verification or authentication in the context of in-person services and transactions.
- Around 635 million people live in countries where identities cannot be verified or authenticated through digital means, and 270 million more live in countries where the availability of such services is unknown.
- For these people—and many more in countries where the accessibility and use of such services is uneven—the ability to securely verify a person’s legal identity is limited.
- The functionality, availability, and use of digital verification or authentication services—along with the levels of assurance and data privacy and protection safeguards they provide—varies substantially across countries.
In close to 40 percent of countries, people can obtain at least one government-recognized digital identity credential— i.e., one that allows for remote authentication to access online services and transactions.
- In 81 countries (51 of which are high-income), people can obtain at least one government-recognized digital identity credential that allows for remote authentication to access online services and transactions. T
- Over 3.3 billion people (or 2.2 billion people over the age of 15) live in countries without an option to prove their official identity online.
- Even in countries where an online digital identity solution is available, their use varies significantly, from very high uptake in Scandinavian countries and Estonia, to far fewer users per capita in much of Latin America, Central Asia, and some European countries like Germany.
When combined with data on the number of people without any official proof of identity, these findings suggest that, in addition to the 850 million people without any ID, at least:
- 1.1 billion people do not have a digital record of their identity;
- 1.25 billion people do not have a digitally verifiable identity; and
- 3.3 billion people do not have access to a government-recognized digital identity to securely transact online
The ID4D Global Dataset is part of a broader body of analytic work by the World Bank’s ID4D Initiative that aims to provide a better understanding of:
- Implementation: How can we design and implement “good” ID and CR systems that promote inclusion, enhance service delivery, and protect people’s rights and data—with a particular focus on marginalized and vulnerable groups?
Impact: How does owning an ID, and the implementation and use of ID systems, impact people, governments, and the private sector? How can we harness benefits and minimize risks?
Visit our Publications section for the latest papers on good system design and stay tuned for forthcoming research that will offer additional insights on improving user experience, the impact of introducing new systems and system features on service delivery, and more.