News & Events / How GovStack advances UN SDG 16.9, providing legal identity for all

How GovStack advances UN SDG 16.9, providing legal identity for all

How GovStack advances UN SDG 16.9, providing legal identity for all Image by Alexa from Pixabay

by Jaume Dubois

GovStack is on a mission to build the first global toolbox for e-government that makes it easier for states to adopt digital public infrastructure. Our work focuses on defining the ICT building blocks that can form the infrastructure needed to enable a multitude of use cases. We believe that this toolbox will help to improve the quality of life for people around the world.

As we kick off commemoration of ID4Africa’s Identity Day on September 16, GovStack is celebrating its progress and contributions towards creating digital public infrastructure that is secure, sustainable, and citizen-centric, and moves the world closer to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs.)

GovStack as an accelerator towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals

It is logical that reaching SDG 16.9, providing an identity to all, will positively impact a number of other SDGs.

Indeed, Identity is a critical prerequisite for the following targets:

  • SDG 1.3 – achieving substantial coverage of vulnerable populations to social protection systems
  • SDG 3.3 – combating epidemics by allowing traceability of infection and vaccination
  • SDG 5a – providing women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources

These are just a few examples of how identity is the gateway to increased access and increased quality of life. Yet, still hundreds of millions people do not have an official identity.

“Having proof of one’s identity is a fundamental right, and a practical necessity for the human experience, especially in the context of digital transformation of society. Very few social constructs play as foundational a role in our lives as personal identity, yet the world does not commemorate it. Through a commemorative day we hope to promote a responsible narrative about the most important human asset – our identity.” – ID4Africa

Think of all the government services you interact with that require an ID. Without an ID, you cannot vote or access basic services in the realms of healthcare, education, or social assistance. Moreover, you may be blocked from participating in the economy via financial services and may not even be able to get SIM card for a mobile phone. Access to these services is a fundamental right for the 21st century.

GovStack’s Identity (ID) Building Block offers a readily assembled infrastructure to build the systems which can automate identity verification and enable registration of individuals for such programs and services.

GovStack addresses the three fundamentals of identity

ID4Africa has identified the three fundamentals of identity as:

  • Inclusion – leaving no one behind
  • Protection – preserving the rights and freedom of people by preventing malicious use of identity
  • Empowerment – giving people agency to access benefits and improve their wellbeing


GovStack’s mission is to facilitate access for individuals to government and third parties services. This can be done with modern means such as web portals and smartphone applications. However, our inclusion-first approach means keeping in mind the vast diversity of individual capacities and contexts in order to reach as many people as possible. As such, GovStack is adaptable for alternative means of access, such as low-tech or offline asynchronous tools.


With more and more digital interactions in our daily life, we are multiplying our digital identities in order to access services. The GovStack ID Building Block enables the unification of those identities into a single universal entry point. Once your identity is verified and  certified by your government, it is then usable as a trusted identity to access a multitude of services. By design, the technology does not share information unnecessary for the particular service in question, and requires an individual’s consent before using their data. (For more on Consent, check out the blog from our Consent Building Block team.) Working in tandem with the Security and Consent Building Blocks, the ID Building Block protects privacy and includes mechanisms to prevent usurpation or data hacking. The Information Mediator building block ensures data confidentiality and security in cross-systems data exchanges. These building blocks have been prioritized by GovStack for the protection they offer and for the good governance model they create together.


Once an identity has been properly verified by the ID building block, the individual is now empowered to access all services in a simple, unified, and secure way. This means accessing government services using a device, instead of queuing all day at an administrative office. The process is faster thanks to one single-source-of-truth, meaning the data is stored in only one place and easier to retrieve or maintain. GovStack Building Blocks enable the automation of life event processes which in turn, maximizes access to empowering services. For example, once a baby is delivered, it is registered with the health sector and automatically triggers the creation of a legal identity. With this brand new identity, the system would then know to register for the proper vaccination scheme and any mother and child care social assistance programs.

In short, GovStack’s Identity building block is a catalyst for empowerment, ensures equal access for all, and includes built-in data protections.

Building towards the future 

GovStack’s ID Building Block has come a long way since the project’s inception. We kicked off our work with many debates to define the first specifications and the right compromise between benefits and risks. The ID Building Block features and interoperability standards are now well established and we are moving towards being able to evaluate candidate Digital Public Goods.

GovStack is currently building out its sandbox, allowing users to get hands-on with real interoperable building blocks and test service prototypes to deliver key use cases.

Join us

GovStack is excited to be moving from a working group model to a community participation model, open-sourcing our work on public repositories and welcoming volunteers who want to contribute to the project.

Visit our Solution page to learn more about the GovStack toolbox, explore the Building Blocks we’re working on, and stop by the Community page to get involved as we make this transition.

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