DigID – Doing Digital Identities is a five-year research project funded by the European Research Council. The project is concerned with the ongoing shift towards digital identification devices by government authorities around the world.

This shift constitutes the most significant change in statist identification practices since the consolidation of the international passport regime in the 19th century. Digital ID devices like electronic eID cards providing remote access to government services, biometric databases, and blockchain-secured digital identity wallets are increasingly complementing, or even replacing, paper-based means of identification like passports or birth certificates.

The DigID project uses this unique moment of change to assess how the move towards digital ID devices affects the practical meaning and lived experience of citizenship—understood as a legal status, a form of membership in a political community, and a set of bottom-up practices for enacting social and political rights.

To this end, a team of five researchers engages with two interrelated research questions: First, how does the digitization of identification practices reconfigure the transactions and relations between citizens and state authorities? Second, how does the move towards digital ID devices reshape the material dimension of citizenship?

The material dimension of citizenship refers to the technologies and infrastructures that are needed to enact citizenship as a political subjectivity, a form of belonging to a political community and a formal relation to the state.

The project will engage with these questions in relation to three moments of identification that are central for the practical meaning and lived experience of citizenship:

  1. Birth registration (the moment when human beings are translated into citizens of a particular nation-state);
  2. Border controls (understood as sites where citizens are granted access to the state’s territory and distinctions between citizens and non-citizens are drawn); and
  3. mundane Citizen-state transactions to enact social and political rights in the context of education, healthcare, voting and welfare (traditionally understood as the conceptual core of citizenship).

Methodologically, the DigID project combines multi-sited ethnographies, textual analysis, and mapping to study the design, implementation, and practical use of digital ID devices in one international and five national case studies, namely: Estonia, Germany, Indonesia, Malawi and Sierra Leone.