Stakeholders and roles

A variety of actors are typically involved in establishing, maintaining, and using an ID system throughout the identity lifecycle. In the context of government-recognized ID systems, important stakeholders include:

  • Individuals. People are the center of ID systems. As both the subject of these systems and the end-users who use their identity to access rights and services, they have the right to know and exercise appropriate oversight over how their data is collected, used, stored, and shared. Understanding and responding to people’s ID-related needs and concerns, protecting their privacy and personal data, and ensuring their agency throughout the identity lifecycle must be the starting point for building an ID system capable of furthering development goals.

  • Governments. Government agencies—e.g., ID authorities, civil registrars, Ministries of ICT, Interior or Justice, etc.—are often the primary providers of foundational ID systems. In addition, other government agencies—e.g., Ministries of Social Protection, Health, Education, Justice, Tax, Customs, election administration, etc.—either rely on these foundational systems to interact with people and/or are themselves providers of functional ID systems. Finally, other government bodies play a regulatory role, provide oversight for ID systems, and may also be involved in implementing specific components or setting standards for technology and data formats. For instance, national cybersecurity agencies help ID agencies reduce cybersecurity risks and effectively respond to breaches, and Ministries of ICT may provide infrastructure or shared services, such as a datacenter, government cloud, or public key infrastructure (PKI).

  • Private sector. Private companies are developers, innovators, and suppliers of most ID system components and infrastructure. In addition, private companies may also be ID providers themselves, either as part of their core business (e.g., as part of federated or decentralized digital authentication models) or to identify and authenticate customers for other services, such as (e.g., financial service providers and mobile operators). In addition, many private companies rely on government ID systems to identify their customers (e.g. requiring government-issued credentials to open bank accounts, register SIM cards, or create credit reporting systems). Governments have also partnered with private companies to deliver forms of digital ID, such as mobile identity and digital authentication platforms, or to perform specific roles within a government-provided ID system (e.g., data collection during registration).

  • Civil society. NGO, community-based organizations, and other local groups are important partners for generating demand for ID and assisting people in obtaining the proof of identity they need to fully engage in economic, political, and social life. For more on this topic, see the “Community-Based Practitioner’s Guide on Documenting Citizenship and Other Forms of Legal Identity” (Open Society Justice Initiative and Namati 2018), which provides a toolkit for community-based justice actors to assist people in obtaining proof of legal identity. Civil society actors are also important potential partners and sources of critical feedback on the planning and implementation of ID systems.

  • International organizations and development partners. Development and humanitarian agencies may provide support for ID systems in the form of funding and technical assistance or be involved in establishing ID systems themselves to administer programs. For asylum seekers and refugees, for example, the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees (articles 25 and 27) provides that host States are responsible for registration, refugee status determination and providing IDs. However, in some cases, host States may not have the capacity or willingness to do so, and UNHCR may take on this responsibility in partnership with the host State and in line with its mandate established in international law. Other international bodies—e.g., the International Standards Organization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)—are also involved in setting standards related to identity management.

Each of these stakeholders can play various roles within the identity ecosystem, as described in Table 1.

Table 1. ID Stakeholders, roles, and objectives

Role Stakeholders Core Activities Primary Goals


Subjects of the ID system


Residents, citizens, beneficiaries, customers, etc.

  • Register in ID system

  • Use credentials and proof of ID to access rights and services

  • Update data as needed

  • Exercise control and oversight over their data

  • Accessibility

  • User-friendliness and control

  • Transparency and consent regarding data usage

  • Privacy & data protection

“ID providers”

Issue and manage identities

(Note: the term ID provider can comprise many separate roles; see Section III. Administration > Roles and Responsibilities for a more detailed discussion)

Government agencies

Foundational: ID authorities, civil registrars, etc.

Functional: electoral commission; social protection, health ministries; tax authorities, etc.

Private companies

PPP partners, mobile operators, financial service providers, online commercial platforms, private health providers, credit rating agencies, etc.

International organizations

UNHCR, WFP, etc.

  • Register people in the ID system

  • Issue and manage credentials

  • Manage and update identity information

  • Provide authentication/verification services at different levels of assurance

  • Raise awareness, conduct public consultations, and redress grievances

  • Create accurate, trusted identities

  • Deliver services efficiently and effectively

  • Protect data against misuse and breaches

  • Prevent fraud

  • Reduce operating costs

“Relying parties”

Rely on ID systems provided by others to identify/verify/ authenticate end users

Government agencies

Passport office, electoral commission, tax authorities, social protection agency, etc.

Private companies

Mobile network operators, financial service providers, online commercial platforms, private health providers, credit rating agencies, etc.

  • Use platforms, credentials, and services of ID providers to authenticate and/or verify the identity of end-users

  • Authorize people to access specific rights or services

  • Identify and authenticate people with appropriate level of assurance for transaction

  • Deliver services efficiently and effectively

  • Prevent fraud

  • Reduce operating costs


Support the development, implementation, and oversight of the ID system

Regulatory bodies

Government oversight and enforcement agencies

  • Promulgate and enforce regulations and trust frameworks related to ID

  • Data protection and privacy

  • Consistent identity management

  • Accountability

Standard setting bodies and trust frameworks

Government and international organizations, private identity organizations and associations

  • Provide technical and data standards

  • Build trust

  • Support information security and cybersecurity

  • Build trusted ID systems that are vendor and technology neutral

  • Facilitate interoperability

  • Establish trust between identity stakeholders

Development and local partners

Donor agencies, NGOs, community-based organizations

  • Provide funding and technical assistance for ID system design and implementation

  • Assist people will accessing and using ID systems and related services

  • Advocate for inclusive and trusted ID systems

  • Support client goals

  • Build local capacity

  • Ensure accountability to users

Source: Adapted from Digital Identity Toolkit and Digital Identity: Public and Private Sector Cooperation