Communication with the public and other stakeholders is fundamental for the success of an ID system. People need to want to register, know how to do so, and understand how the ID system will make their lives better or easier. Administrators will need to develop solid public information and education campaigns (IECs) during the initial program rollout, as well as ongoing communications strategies that adapt to emerging needs and issues. These communications efforts serve three primary functions:

  • Providing information about the process and requirements: To participate in the ID system, the public needs to know: (1) who is eligible to enroll, (2) when and where to enroll, and (3) how to enroll, including which supporting documents or other evidence will be required. Without clear, consistent messaging regarding process and requirements, misinformation is likely to spread, creating barriers to participation.

  • Motivating people to participate: Experience in multiple countries shows that people can feel very proud of their country when they participate in a national ID-type program. At the same time, people have often expressed ambivalence toward these systems when they see no value in them for their daily lives. Messaging, including clearly articulating the benefits of enrolling in the ID system—e.g., less paperwork, online transactions, links to social programs, ease of opening a bank account, national development, etc.—can help overcome these issues.

  • Alleviating fears and concerns. In any country, certain individuals and groups (e.g., those with a history of marginalization or persecution) will fear having their data collected due to concerns about possible surveillance, discrimination, or data breaches. Through positive messaging—backed up by a privacy- and security-enhancing legal framework and design, along with positive registration experiences—IECs can help alleviate concerns and establish trust in the system.

IECs and ongoing communication strategies should take a multi-pronged approach using multiple media channels, formats, and styles to reach a broad audience that spans ages, social, economic, and linguistic groups (see Table 20).

Table 20. Communication format and channels

Media Format Distribution Channels
Written communications
  • Print and online newspapers, magazines, blogs

  • Social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter)

  • Agency websites

  • Printed leaflets, posters

  • Television (commercials, special broadcasts, news shows)

  • Social media (e.g., YouTube, Facebook),

  • Agency websites

Songs, skits, and plays
  • Radio

  • Television

  • Public gatherings

Public question and answers (Q&A) sessions by officials
  • Radio

  • Television

  • Public gatherings

The success of the initial years of an ID system—i.e., during mass registration and gradual adoption by service providers—depends on momentum, and IECs are crucial to this process. Specifically, they can showcase progress and good news stories, such as registration milestones, reduced waiting times, lower costs for opening a bank account etc. Using real stories from both regular people and celebrities can help boost the credibility of these messages (see Box 16 for examples).

Critically, system administrators must work to identify and publicly respond to people’s fears and concerns. Dismissing these concerns—e.g., by claiming that a database is not hackable or that the public has nothing to worry about—or working to discredit those who identify real vulnerabilities is only likely to increase mistrust in the system. Conversely, demonstrating an understanding and appreciation for these concerns through clear communication and visibly working to address these concerns will help strengthen the public’s confidence in the system.

Box 16. Examples of Information and education campaigns

In Peru, the national ID agency (RENIEC) and Coca Cola had a 'Happy ID’ campaign, where people were encouraged to smile for their national ID card photo. In addition, RENIEC maintains an active social media presence, including on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

In Paraguay, UNICEF leveraged a football match against Uruguay in its campaign for universal birth registration, with major TV and radio stations airing the first few minutes of the game without referring to the player’s names to highlight the importance of registration.

Japan’s “My Number” (a unique ID number system) has adopted a mascot to better brand the service.

Bangladesh created a theme song/video (in Bangla) for its new national ID card.

ID4D has created a number of videos to showcase the impact that ID can have, including the Make Everyone Count video, a story of how Revenna’s ID got him his passport and the opportunity to attend the world cup, how a young refugee realizes her potential with the help of an ID, how digital IDs empower women cross border traders in East Africa, advancing financial inclusion through digital ID, and how near universal ID coverage in Peru leads to access to education.

Although communication is a critical element of ID system implementation, it is not sufficient to secure the buy-in and trust of the population. The process of public engagement should begin during the design of the project with meaningful public consultation that is perceived as genuine, rather than reactionary.