Everyone Counts!

The Everyone Counts! initiative was launched in the fall of 2020 with a firm commitment to a simple principle: the digital transformation of the state can only qualify as a success if everyone’s human rights are respected. Nowhere is this more urgent than in the context of so-called digital ID systems.

Research, litigation and broader advocacy on digital ID in countries like India and Kenya has already revealed the dangers of exclusion from digital ID for ethnic minority groups[1] and for people living in poverty.[2] However, a significant gap still exists between the magnitude of the human rights risks involved and the urgency of research and action on digital ID in many countries. Despite their active promotion and use by governments, international organizations and the private sector, in many cases we simply do not know how these digital ID systems lead to social exclusion and human rights violations, especially for the poorest and most marginalized.

Therefore, the Everyone Counts! initiative aims to engage in both research and action to address social exclusion and related human rights violations that are facilitated by government-sponsored digital ID systems.

RESEARCH: Empirical human rights research that investigates how the introduction of a digital ID system leads to or exacerbates social exclusion and violates human rights. Our research is based on the notion that there is inherent and instrumental value in listening to and documenting the experience of individual human beings when confronted by digital systems and to how those experiences affect their rights and dignity.

ACTION: Our presence at a leading university and law school underlines our commitment to high quality and cutting-edge research, but we are not in the business of knowledge accumulation purely for its own sake. We undertake targeted advocacy at the national, regional, and international level to ensure that digital ID systems are not used to exclude and violate human rights.

NETWORK BUILDING: Creating physical and virtual spaces for civil society organizations, as well as public and private actors, to come together to exchange information and stories, collaborate, and shape collective action on digital ID systems and exclusion of the poorest and most marginalized.

Photograph taken by ISER and used with permission.

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