One such post embeds an extract of a dialogue with Bill Gates, who references pilots in India on universal ID systems that enable healthcare workers to register patients’ health records digitally. While not directly correlated to the UNDP announcement, the video insinuates that Gates is a key supporter of digital identification, with potential benefits for healthcare and surveillance.
“Designed as global testbeds”
Upon further investigation, we found that the origin of the claim stems from an article by The People’s Voice, which states the UN has “announced plans to rollout digital IDs worldwide by the year 2030, which will be mandatory for people who wish to participate in society”.
The article adds that the digital ID initiative, covered under a Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) project launched by the UNDP, has allegedly been backed by the European Union, the World Economic Forum, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The People’s Voice – an American news publication with a history of publishing inaccurate and misleading stories – details that, as part of the UNDP’s “50-in-5” initiative, 50 countries will be “designed as global testbeds” for the DPI project, which will include digital IDs, vaccine passports, and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).
Digital Public Infrastructure and the UN’s “50-in-5” Initiative
The UN’s “50-in-5” initiative aims to have 50 countries design, implement, and scale at least one DPI component, such as digital payment or digital IDs, in five years (i.e. by the end of 2028). The UN asserts that the digital transformation of the DPIs will accelerate the process of countries achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including economic, social, and environmental concerns.
The “50-in-50” initiative also aims to shorten DPI’s implementation in various countries through international collaboration, as member countries share best practices, learnings, and technology that may reduce cost and maximise impact.
11 countries were announced as the first batch of countries adopted into the programme, which includes Singapore, Estonia, and Bangladesh. Organisations that came together for this announcement on 9 November 2023 include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UN Development Programme, as well as UNICEF.
Will digital IDs be mandatory by 2030?
While the UN’s “50-in-5” initiative aims to improve DPIs in various countries, it does not mandate that all countries adopt digital IDs by 2030. In a statement to USA Today, Victor Garrido Delgado, a spokesperson from the UNDP stated that “[t]he United Nations has not, at any point, claimed that digital ID will become mandatory”.
Further, although the initiative is in collaboration with organisations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UNDP, it is still a project led by the countries themselves in accordance with their different needs.
For example, Singapore has already adopted a digital ID system – the ‘Singpass’ app – which allows users access to their identification documents online and to transact with government agencies through the app. Therefore Singapore’s role in the “50-in-5” initiative leans more towards sharing about its practices and knowledge exchange.
Hence, it is false that the UN has announced plans to roll out digital IDs worldwide by 2030, which will be mandatory for people who wish to participate in society.