SECTION II. Designing an ID System

This section provides an overview of the planning process for designing an ID system, beginning with the Principles on Identification that underpin inclusive and trusted ID systems. It then presents a planning roadmap to guide practitioners through various exercises needed to understand gaps in the current ID system, identify goals for the future and country-specific constraints, and assess the costs, benefits and risks of particular design choices. Next, it summarizes the key, high-level design decisions that need to be made early in the planning process and concludes with guidance on procurement.   


There is no one-size-fits-all solution for creating a foundational ID system that is inclusive and trusted. Instead, governments and other stakeholders must undertake an in-depth planning process to ensure that the design and implementation of a foundational ID system is appropriate to the country context and fit-for-purpose to achieve national priorities while respecting people's inalienable rights. This planning process should be informed by international good practices, reflect local needs, goals, and context, and begin the public and stakeholder consultations that should continue throughout ID system implementation.

Importantly, planning should begin with high-level policy and design decisions, which are needed to inform the development of core policies, laws, and regulations and to eventually complete technical specifications and procurement. Conversely, ID projects that begin with technical specifications—e.g., the desire for a particular credential or other technology—are less likely to succeed as they are driven by supply and not necessarily by demand. A foundational ID system is not an end in itself; it must be motivated by potential impacts (e.g., increasing inclusion and access to services, reducing fraud, etc.) and the expressed needs of people and other system users. This requires a paradigm shift from ID systems being systems of control or knowledge to platforms for service delivery, digital development, and empowerment. While this requires new thinking and business process re-engineering on the part of identity providers and relying parties, reconceiving identity as a user-centric platform will ultimately benefit people, governments, and the private sector.

This section provides a series of content to help navigate the planning and design process, including:

  • Principles. An overview of the Principles on Identification for Sustainable Development, which provide a high-level guiding framework of good practices related to system inclusion, design, and governance. These Principles have been endorsed by 25 organizations—including UN agencies, donors, private sector associations, and research institutions—and should serve as a touchstone for any ID project.

  • Planning Roadmap. In order to begin designing an ID system, practitioners must first identify and consider important country-specific factors, including the status quo of ID assets, stakeholders, coverage, quality, and legal frameworks; specific goals for the ID system; constraints such as existing ICT infrastructure, levels of development and connectivity, and other social, political, and economic considerations; fiscal costs and benefits of design-choices; and potential risks related to privacy and exclusion. This section summarizes important decision factors and presents various ID4D tools to assist in this process.

  • Key Decisions. This section provides overview of key decisions that practitioners must make regarding the functional design of the ID system, which are needed to inform legal and regulatory frameworks and to eventually develop more detailed technical specifications needed for procurement. These decisions should be informed by the detailed assessments undertaken as part of the planning roadmap as well as more in-depth technical information provided in Section III.

  • Procurement. Once initial planning is complete and key decisions have been made, the Guide presents a checklist and good practices to assist countries with the procurement process.