Introduction

In the last four years, the Government of Ethiopia has initiated various reform programs that have implications for improving the ease of doing business. One important pillar is the introduction of policies and legal frameworks governing the digital economy. Ethiopia’s move to the digital economy is accompanied by the promulgation of Digital Ethiopia strategy, Electronic Transaction Proclamation, Personal Data Protection Proclamation as well as National ID Proclamation. National ID is the foundation on which all digital services and transactions can occur in a trusted framework. NID is led by a Program that is currently within the Office of the Prime Minister.

The NID Program is working to enroll and provide Digital Identification to all residents in Ethiopia with the goal of providing advanced financial, social, public, and other services that identify a physical person using foundational individualizing mechanisms rather than functional ones. NIDP intends to issue Digital IDs to over 70million citizens and residents in Ethiopia by the end of 2025.

Current Status

The program has completed a laboratory-based pilot test of the ID platform called “Fayda” and is currently on a pilot field rollout of digital IDs. Utilizing local capacity, NIDP has customized an open-source platform called MOSIP based on local context, need and draft legal framework. The Fayda Platform (id.gov.et/idservices) is a biometric-based identification platform based on open standards to be customized by different countries and integrated with multiple other technologies including biometric device technologies and ABIS Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) solutions. This customized platform (which is labeled “Fayda”, meaning “Value” in multiple Ethiopian Languages) is now under pilot implementation to explore strengths and weaknesses that can be fixed before the main rollout. The pilot implementation so far (making around 3000 registrations) exposed a host of technical and operational lessons that inform the planning and implementation of subsequent phases. Accordingly, field trials are planned as part of the pilot on selected use cases such as IPDC, PSNP, and Banking sector. IPDC has already started registering more than 1000 employees so far. 

The main areas of focus for the pilot project include 

  1. Technology and Platform testing 
  2. Field implementation and enrollment 
  3. Assessing key principles such as Inclusion and Data Protection
  4. Drafting of Legal Framework, and 
  5. Capacity and team building in preparation for the national rollout.

Building on early insights from the first round of testing, the second pilot will deploy its technical and operational design to test further registration capabilities as well as authentication features with a series of partnering institutions and other stakeholders.

Currently, the program has completed a plan to extend and scale up the pilot test to 100,000. This pilot includes Registration/Enrollment, ID and credentials generation/dispatch as well as online and offline verification/authentication. Some of the lessons learned in the ongoing pilot include an enrollment strategy to work in tandem with the onboarding and eKYC needs of the service providers (use-cases). We have also benchmarked other countries that have rolled out digital ID in recent years including but not limited to, India, the Philippines, Nigeria, and Kenya. The pilot program is receiving constructive feedback from local service providers as the trust framework NID providers benefits them in their onboarding processes and KYC. The following table shows the different phases of the NID program:

Major Phases

Timeline

Target Population

Laboratory-based Pilot

June 2020-May 2021

200

Field-based pilot

June 2021- November 2021

5,000

Use-case pilot (ongoing)

November 2021- July 2022

100,000

Pre- launch pilot 

July 2022- December 2022

500,000

Country Rollout

January 2023- December 2025

70Million

Accordingly, a “Governance and Policy” document has been approved by stakeholders while a high level “End to End Strategy” document has been drafted and is being revised based on comments from stakeholders.