Public perceptions of a new digital ID system

We ran an exit survey and focus group discussions to learn how a local registration experience can inform a national scale-up


The Government of Ethiopia is introducing a new Digital ID system, called Fayda. In preparation for the rollout, the authorities are conducting a series of pilots to test the ID platform and inform a scale-up to mass-registration of the adult population.

One of these pilots focused on recipients of the Rural Productive Safety Net Program (rPSNP) living in Oromia and Sidama regions. The goal was to complete more than 40,000 estimated registrations in these communities. Building on this effort, the World Bank’s Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative and Development Impact Evaluation (DIME), in collaboration with the Ethiopian National Identity Program (NIDP), conducted a study to support the evaluation of the pilot and inform the government’s scale up plans.

Our work

In this context, Laterite was commissioned to conduct a short survey of a random sample of 500 registrants as they exit the registration stations and a couple rounds of interviews with 29 registration officers to capture their experiences (for a total of 60 conversations). The exit survey was complemented by a series of Focus Group Discussions with a small sample of registrants. The aim was to understand needs and expectations around the use of existing forms of ID and solutions and ideas for the new Fayda ID to inform design, registration, use cases and communications for the roll out of the new digital ID.

Laterite conducted a total of 10 Focus Group Discussions with seven to nine participants, each lasting approximately one hour. The focus groups were conducted in Boricha (Sidama), Dodota and Adama Zurya (Oromia) woredas with all-male, all-female and mixed gender groups.

These activities collected data on ID ownership, attitudes and use, their experience with the process, and gathered ideas for the new Fayda digital ID.

Key findings

The participants highlighted the value of receiving information about the new system and the reasoning behind the collection of biographic and biometric information. The groups recommended a number of channels for communicating this information, including, for example, announcements at schools, religious centers, PSNP work sites and social gatherings such as Idir, Mahiber, Equb. Door-to-door dissemination of knowledge by kebele officials would be welcome, and participants greatly appreciated the use of local Development Agents during the pilot to share information and assist with registration.

The participants recommended increasing the number of registration sites and involving local communities to smooth the process and reduce queues and waiting times. Another aspect that can be improved via community participation is the selection of registration sites. While it would have to be balanced against resource implications, placing sites closer to people’s homes or providing mobile registration services could increase the coverage of registration and make the process easier for people with disabilities, the elderly and pregnant women.

Participants noted that costs will be an important consideration for the scaled-up registration. Registration itself is free, and the rPSNP registration pilot was designed to mitigate any indirect costs (for example, registration sites were chosen to be no more than a 3 km distance from any registrant’s residence). However, focus group participants discussed how the indirect costs of travel (fees, time required, etc.) could pose a barrier for households with limited resources, in the future, and suggested NIDP continue to account for it.

On the subject of ID credentials, participants expressed a preference for receiving a physical credential after registering (compared to other formats). They shared that they are accustomed to this because other hard copy credentials, like the common kebele ID document, are used often in daily life to access services. Regarding credential issued via mobile phones, they noted that not everyone has access to a mobile phone so it would be important to offer alternatives in tandem.

The gender-focused groups recommended raising awareness about the importance of ID ownership for women. This is to counter the view, prevailing in some households, that identification is more important for men. Communications that emphasize the reasons why ID is important for women’s rights, for their access to services, and for their economic empowerment, is likely to increase female registration. This is an important finding given that women in Ethiopia are currently nearly 20 percent less likely to own ID than men.