National Identity Cards in Developing Countries


The use of national identity cards dates back to the First World War when they were used as statutory registration schemes. In fact, the British colonial government used the identity card system to identify and control people in their colonies (Arora, 2008). Since then, national identity cards have been used in most countries around the globe for different reasons. In developing countries, for instance, the national identity cards are commonly used by police to control borders and identify criminals (Ignatow, 2011).

Most scholars, just like Mariën and Van Audenhove (2010) and John, Ayo, Ndujuiba, and Okereke (2013) stress on the benefits that have been brought about by national identity cards. National identity cards are essential in facilitating financial inclusion and prevention of crimes. Although the diverse development in information technology brings with it transformation changes of many kinds, there is the need to evaluate the implication of such systems. The proposed research study will seek to assess the loopholes that exist in the system for registered citizens in developing countries, particularly in relation to financial infusion, insecurity, and terrorism. The intention is to categorize loopholes according to the extent to which they affect the implementation of national cards and the number of resources required to curb the problems. Consequently, the study will determine the appropriate methodology for issuing reliable and timely documents to applicants while still maintaining the authenticity of the submitted forms.

Literature Review

There has been relatively little research that interested parties have carried out in identifying the underlying causes that hinder the implementation of national identity cards to citizens of the developing countries. These factors include cultural factors, political, level of education, and religious factors, among others (Ignatow, 2011).

According to Eyiah (2001), culture is a major contributing factor in the implementation of identity cards. There are considerable numbers of developing countries whose cultures do not embrace new and emerging technologies. Yeow, Loo, and Chong (2007) confirm that although new technologies have led to the introduction of smart identity cards that individual countries have embraced, there are countries whose citizens have held on to cultures that do not entertain innovations. Such citizens do not advocate for the integration of identity cards with the Internet. In some developing countries, the Internet is viewed as a source of all evils; thus, any mention of it normally falls on deaf ears of its citizens (Yeow et al., 2007).

Sullivan (2007) confirms that the level of literacy determines whether a given country is ready to implement the uptake of identity cards fully or not. Sullivan continues to say that if a country has a majority of its citizens that are not well educated, then the degree of implementation of identity cards will below. Many of the citizens of such countries will fail to understand the importance of having a national identity card. Some individuals fail to register for an identity card due to the stigma that they perceive they will be subjected to if the card-issuing officer realizes that the individual does not know how to read and write well (Sullivan, 2007). Also related to illiteracy is the fact that most illiterate people will fail to read any advertisements that the government puts in its effort to invite the public for national identity card registration. It means that the illiterate persons will not attend the registration unless other measures are taken to enlighten them of the ongoing registration (Ignatow, 2011).

Most of the nations in the world are under democratic forms of governance. This method of administration gives room for the establishment of civil societies that are vital for the development of the countries. If the government acts in a manner that the general public is unable to comprehend, then the civil groups protest because they serve as the voice of the ordinary citizen (Beynon-Davies, 2006). This has been the case even in the implementation of smart identity cards, as reported by Grant (2004).

Civil societies often oppose the implementation of national identity cards, citing reasons such as poor public involvement, the omission of certain critical components, and the inclusion of sensitive information on the card, among other things. According to Grant (2004), the most underlying reason that ignites protests from civil society is the fact that the new national identity cards typically include even the highest regarded information of an individual, such as religion and marital status (Esen & Gonenç, 2007).

It is worth noting that there are developing countries that have initiated the issuance of smart national identity cards. However, there have been hindrances in the process, which have been attributed to several factors. According to Yeow et al. (2007), some nations issue the smart identity cards, but the recipients are advised to pay an activation fee for the card to work. This move locks out a majority of individuals who would have wished to register for the national identity card. The government fails to understand that not many individuals can afford such activation fees, which can go as high as $13. Such an amount is not affordable to a significant number of people, and given the fact, there is a considerable number of residents of developing countries living on just $1 a day (Yeow et al., 2007). There are others who hold the thought that it is the responsibility of the government to finance the registration, issuance, and activation process of the national identity cards.

Other reasons that hinder the effective implementation of national identity cards in developing countries are corruption, lack of technological advancement, poor inspection, and the lack of government emphasis on the need to have a national identity card (Beck & Broadhurst, 1998).

Most developing countries are regarded as highly corrupt. The corruption runs even in the registration and issuance of national identity cards. Beck and Broadhurst (1998) add that developing countries are faced with poor technological advancement; therefore, they find themselves in a situation where the implementation of national identity cards is quite difficult. Every nation has its officials who are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the government’s directive, including holding a national identity card, is followed. Unfortunately, some officials in the developing countries do not take this directive with the seriousness it deserves (Ignatow, 2011). As a result, there is a section of citizens who are not registered, just because the inspection process is inadequate.

Benefits of a National Identity Card

A national identity card is a crucial document that every citizen of any country should have. It is one of the most efficient methods of identifying a person (Ngwenyama & Morawczynski, 2009). Governments mainly rely on the national identity card to confirm whether a particular individual is an official resident of the country or not. Additionally, there has been an increased need to register and issue new identity cards that are equipped with modern technology. This need has been necessitated by the increasing cases of insecurity that have resulted in the inclusion of relevant information that can assist in the identification of the suspected criminals (Ngwenyama & Morawczynski, 2009).

In other words, smart national identity cards are necessary in the fight against terrorism and other related insecurity cases. Eyiah (2001) gives an interesting significance of having a national identity card. The author says that most lucrative jobs require candidates to have acquired a particular age. It is the national identity card that officially gives the date of a person. Therefore, those without an identity card are locked out of the recruitment process. According to Ngwenyama and Morawczynski (2009), the national identity card can be integrated with ICT to bring about efficient e-surveillance and governance. The researchers add that integrated identity cards can also be used as driving licenses and paying for goods and services.

Significance of the Research

The national electronic card is aimed at the provision of inclusive citizenship and more effective governance. It is also a move towards a cashless economy. Such a move stimulates the economic growth of a country and eases the process of doing business for all citizens. It is argued that MasterCard-enabled national IDs can enhance financial inclusion in developing nations. In other words, the smart-enabled card removes financial obstacles. Although the national identity card serves as a mark of membership in a given nation, it also has its pros and cons.

Yeow et al. (2007) argue that national identity cards could serve as a basis for social exclusion if not all the citizens are given a chance to own the cards. Moreover, identity cards have been associated with identity theft, privacy issues, discrimination, and common theft (Neumann & Weinstein, 2001). Advocates for identity cards insist that a well-designed national identity card system can prevent these adverse impacts and enhance financial inclusion.

The proposed research study has hypothesized that the identity management system in developing countries should be correlated to economic exclusion and social marginalization. The study is aimed at conclusively determining the challenges faced in the implementation of an efficient identity system and the optimal course of action to enhance financial inclusion and prevention of crime.

Research Methodology

The study will focus on international students from developed countries pursuing courses related to criminology and security issues at the University. The study will adopt a qualitative research approach to suit the nature of the research study (Creswell, 2012). It will incorporate a case study approach because the tradition of the case study method has been used in various similar settings, especially in learning institutions. Therefore, it will be a suitable approach to dealing with learners at the University. Online questionnaires will be administered to more than 150 university students. The study will comprise of a series of open-ended questions related to the challenges faced in the implementation of an efficient identity system and the optimal course of action to enhance financial inclusion and prevention of crime. Interviews will be carried out by picking 30 students from the sample to respond to specific questions in order to provide more understanding of the students’ opinions.

Several steps will be followed to ensure that the credibility and privacy of the participants are protected. First, an email containing the interview questions, and the written consent will be sent to the students to enable them to review their responses to the interview. Secondly, informed consent will be obtained to ensure that the respondents are protected. Permission will be from the university administration before beginning any process of data collection (Creswell, 2012). Identified participants will be invited and informed evaluation of the objectives and goals of the study. Furthermore, they will be informed of data collection and storage methods of the study.


The proposed study will not be expected to go well as planned because some university students, especially international students, will not be interviewed due to the problem of the language barrier. Given that it is the first time to conduct interviews, the initial attempt is expected to be poor. However, subsequent interviews are expected to have significant improvements.


A national identity card is a crucial document for the smooth operation of any government. The information that is available on an identity card is so important that the intelligence service can use it to track down any suspected criminal or anyone thought to destabilize the security of a nation. However, there are hindrances to the implementation of a national identity card system. These obstacles include cultural orientations, political inclinations, the level of education of the population, and religious factors, among others. On the other hand, there seem to be other gaps that affect the implementation of national identity cards. It is in this light that this proposal seeks to carry out research on the reasons affecting the implementation of national identity cards in the developing countries. Therefore, the study participants will be international students from developing countries.


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