The German Marshall Fund of the United States has released a new report exploring the intersection of digital wallets and migration. The fund’s research was released on the same day as the UN’s 2021 annual report on migration.
Both have examples of effective digital ID systems for migrants, but the GMF report also issues a caveat.
According to GMF research, digital wallets promise broad implications for the global governance of cross-border travel and migration. This would particularly apply to digital identity management and financing scenarios.
It’s going to be an uphill struggle just to get some basic chords. There is even a “lack of consensus and clarity around the term ‘digital wallet’.
(For the record, the fund defines digital wallets as “technology systems that store […] information and […] value, allowing users to track and execute transactions. They are “used to store and exchange currency, tokens, and coupons, as well as passwords, credentials, and credentials”.)
“Digital wallets are widely seen as a solution to the constraints of traditional financial and identity systems, including issues of surveillance, trust and interoperability,” according to the report.
Digital wallets potentially offer migrants a safe, organized and reliable way to store and use digital identity credentials, savings accounts and other resources across borders.
But creating the infrastructure to make this possible is a major undertaking for nations of any size.
“This is currently a challenge, particularly in forced migration contexts, where people’s access to essential (and often paper-based) personal documents and finances, issued by a range of providers, is compromised,” says the document.
The fund’s report connects digital wallets to blockchain-based decentralized database systems.
“The Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) movement proposes that blockchain helps steer identity management away from corporate intermediaries and empower individuals. […] to own and manage their own personal information.
Examples, good and bad
The IOM document highlights the work of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on 31.7 million displaced persons, refugees and migrants last year.
The document says the agency released a study last year on the digital inclusion of migrants in Canada, one of the top three resettlement countries for the year. The organization says the report “Digital Inclusion of Refugees Resettling to Canada: Opportunities and Barriers” is the first of its kind.
The IOM has published a brief it produced to determine what would be needed to create “fair and effective” digital health certificates for migrants and travellers.
The organization also described the risk management and data protection initiatives it worked on during the year.
Case studies on digital wallets for financial inclusion are presented by GMF, including UNICEF’s Leaf project as a good example of the technology. Worldcoin, on the other hand, is considered an example of an “untested and meaningless cryptocurrency.
“Under the banner of wealth redistribution and financial inclusion for marginalized groups like refugees, such programs pose privacy and data protection concerns,” the research says with reference to Worldcoin.
More broadly, the document indicates that the concerns and risks associated with the adoption of digital wallets in the migration sector can fall into three categories: user experience (especially for marginalized groups), storage and security. , and regulatory concerns.
The report also mentions digital wallets for cross-border recognition, including the European Union’s new digital identity wallet, EUDI.
“The consequences for third-country nationals residing in the EU are emerging. This system represents a new way for public and private entities to coordinate and recognize various types of digital identities used in a multi-country environment.
Worldcoin’s digital identity system is also mentioned in the otherwise flattering document.
“Rather than following data minimization principles, blockchain-based biometric systems like Worldcoin are already of concern as tools for international surveillance.”
biometrics | digital identity | digital wallet | humanitarian | identity management | International Organization for Migration | UNICEF | World Currency