history, ID, standards, UK

Perspecitves on ID in earlier- vs. later-developing countries

The Government and the UK’s National Technical Authority on Information Assurance (CESG) have published new guidance on ‘identity proofing’ and verification. (Pinsent Masons)

“Within the UK there is no official or statutory attribute or set of attributes that are used to uniquely identify individuals across Government,” the joint Cabinet Office and CESG guidance document said. “Neither is there a single official or statutory issued document whose primary purpose is that of identifying an individual. Without such attributes or documentation it is difficult for any person to be absolutely certain of the identity of another.”

“This guide is designed to demonstrate how a combination of the breadth of evidence provided, the strength of the evidence itself, the validation and verification processes conducted and a history of activity can provide various levels of assurance around the legitimacy of an identity,” it said.

The whole piece is interesting.

The first quoted sentence above really jumps out, though.

The early industrializers/bureaucratizers typically developed their ID schemes in an ad hoc fashion. The church kept its records for its purposes. The military kept its records for its purposes. Schools, for theirs. Service providers, etc. The system generally works. In the end, error rates and whether or not the costs of the ID errors exceed what it would cost to fix them rule the day. Political and financial considerations factor in.

It is precisely this patchwork ID environment that later-developing countries are choosing to leap-frog with more centralized (United Arab Emirates) or ecosystem (India) approaches involving biometrics. Outside observers from the earlier developing countries are often surprised that their political perspective on government-backed ID isn’t universally shared while observers in later-developing countries may be equally surprised that the most developed countries in the world have such patchwork ID systems.

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