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Identification in a Digital Age: Implications for Development

Information Technology for Development | Call for Papers | Deadline: 13 September 2019

Recognition of legal identity is becoming a priority for national governments on a global scale (Dahan & Gelb, 2015). Inability to prove identity constitutes a barrier to reception of public services and social protection, resulting in denial of crucial entitlements to many individuals (Gelb & Clark, 2013; Devereux, 2016). More at large, numerous activities entrenched in citizenship (ranging from voting to attending schools, receiving health services and emergency assistance) require proof of identity (Nyst et al., 2016), making reliable identification of users a hallmark of effective state service provision. All these elements were conducive to the formal inscribing of legal identity in the global development agenda, with the United Nations devising Sustainable Development Goal 16:9: “By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration”.

At the same time, the link between digital identity and development is not without problematisation. While associated to ‘development benefits’ in multiple forms, the advent of digital identity presents a set of issues that ICT4D, as well as cognate disciplines including development management, human geography and critical data studies are well-positioned to explore. New forms of privacy concerns include the loss of control on one’s own data, the trading of data for social benefits and the transformation of state-citizen relationships that underpin the formation of digital identity systems. Emerging theories of data justice (Taylor, 2017; Heeks & Renken, 2018) are relevant to illuminate the implications of digital identity for subjects, and further problematise the role of digital identification for development.

Given the relevance of the topic in the current historical phase, we encourage colleagues from ICT4D and cognate disciplines to engage the discussion of digital identification and development, including problematisation of the broader systems and ‘digital economies’ that automated identification is set to enable. This special issue aims at deepening such discussion, seeking to ascertain extant evidence of the link between digital identity and development and of its multiple problematisations from diverse disciplinary angles. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Novel theoretical approaches to digital identity and development
  • Conceptualisations of digital identity (and its meaning for citizens/populations) and their relevance in relation to development
  • Implications of digital identity for development projects, programmes and schemes (e.g. social welfare, social protection schemes, anti-poverty programmes, employment guarantees, social safety nets)
  • Implications of digital identity for state-citizen relations in resource-constrained settings
  • Implications of digital identity for privacy, data ethics and surveillance discourses
  • Meaning of digital identity for ‘data justice’ and injustices related to digitalisation.

Papers that investigate the above topics are invited to submit to this special issue. Novel approaches, theoretical, empirical and combinations thereof are encouraged.


  • Deadline for submission: 13 September 2019
  • Notification of initial acceptance: 30 November 2019
  • Deadline for revised papers: 28 February 2020
  • Notification of final acceptance: 1 May 2020
  • Tentative publication date: June 2020

Paper Submission Instructions and review process

Researchers and practitioners are invited to submit original papers using the journal submission and reviewing web site https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/itd. Detailed submission guidelines can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/action/authorSubmission?show=instructions&journalCode=titd20

Submitted papers should follow the instructions for authors and indicate “Identification in a Digital Age: Implications for Development” special issue when uploading their papers. Submissions to the special issue should be full research papers or practice papers. Each submitted paper will be peer-reviewed in the same manner as other submissions to the Journal of IT for Development. Relevance, quality and originality of the contribution are the major acceptance criteria for each submission.

After initial screening, papers are reviewed by selected members of the editorial board and peers from an international pool for quality, consistency and research contribution. Authors are welcome to nominate one of the special issue editors or preferred reviewers when submitting their paper where no conflict of interest exist (an existing business or professional partnership, past or present association as thesis advisor or thesis student, and/or collaboration on a project or on a book/article/report/paper or co-editing of a journal, compendium, or conference proceedings constitutes a conflict of interest). Papers submitted to this journal must contain original results and must not be submitted elsewhere while being evaluated. If a duplication is found, papers are subject to being rejected for that reason alone.

Special Issue Editors:

  • Silvia Masiero
  • Savita Bailur