All governments have passports for their citizens. But not all citizens have passports. And some citizens have more than one passport. However, if you do have a passport, you can often use it for more than just entering and exiting countries. We can use them for verifying our name, age, nationality, and often our country of birth. We can also use the unique idenitifier number to track people without using their name or other details. Overall, it is quite a useful document.
Interestingly, most government don’t and can not control our ability to use our passports for other things. They also can’t control who trusts or doesn’t trust the data on the document or when that data gets entered into another database. And generally, they don’t want to. A passport becomes a useful document for far more than what it was originally intended for because the government controls who gets one, but not how it is used. They do the hard work of registering, verifying, proving uniqueness, and maintaining the list. Others then can rely on it and in this way it becomes an enabler.
The department that issues passports (or in some countries National IDs) does one thing. It doesn’t issue business licences or welfare or school certificates or frequent flyer cards. Other departments, businesses, organisations, can use the passport (or National ID) within their systems and processes. But it does one thing
I wonder if we can learn from this in the humanitarian ecosystem. One agency could focus on registration, while everyone else does the rest. And instead of creating a walled garden where no one can use the registration data, it could be made useable for the rest of us. Not that we everyone needs to use one system, but rather referring back to the same ID system, but using their own systems for their work. And then, perhaps then, we can also begin to give the citizens that same data so they can take it with them wherever they go.
Maybe we don’t need to control everything.