Morocco: Overhauling a Fragmented Identification System

Diego Angel-Urdinola

Senior Economist

 

For years, Morocco has relied on multiple identity systems, each highly developed in its own way. In the late 1970s, the government introduced a national identity system. This was replaced in 2008 with an electronic identification system, Carte Nationale d’Identité Electronique (CNIE) with approximately 20 million electronic ID cards issued to date.  Besides CNIE, Morocco’s identification systems include the civil registry which records births and deaths, the National Register of Children (MASSAR), a completely electronic system that manages aspects of the scholastic life of children, the RAMED database (introduced in 2011), a free medical insurance program for the poor, and the Social Security register (CNSS) by which employers register their employees in the social security scheme.


A Missing Link


And yet, for many reasons, Morocco found that its complex identity ecosystem was no longer serving all its identification needs. A key issue was lack of interoperability. Each system had created its own identification number; none of these systems or numbers was interoperable or even followed the same logic or standards. Many of the functional ID programs required prospective beneficiaries to possess a CNIE but could only use this to do on-the-spot manual verification. Without electronic access to the CNIE database, there was no way to truly verify that beneficiaries were, in fact, who they said they were. This lack of electronic verification made systems susceptible to fraud. Further, it resulted in individuals appearing differently across databases with slight variations in names, spellings and addresses. In the long run, this lack of electronic integration resulted in a waste of time and money for the administration and burdened individuals with the need to repeatedly prove their identity in order to access services and rights.


An Incomplete System


The introduction of the RAMED and Tayssir social safety net programs only underlined the country’s need for a new identification system. Both programs were introduced to help the poor cope with the inevitable rise in cost of food and fuel as the Moroccan government began to phase out its energy subsidy. Through RAMED, the government planned to provide free health insurance to the poor while Tayssir was a conditional cash transfer to encourage poor families to send their children to school.


At first, the CNIE seemed the logical choice of database by which to identify and authenticate beneficiaries for these new programs. Both RAMED and Tayssir required potential beneficiaries to possess CNIEs as a prerequisite for enrolment. However, it soon became evident that the CNIE could not be used to verify RAMED and Tayssir beneficiaries for the simple reason that it had enrolled neither the poorest of the poor nor children. Deterred by the high cost (roughly USD $8.5) of enrolling in CNIE, the poor turned out to be an excluded segment of the population in the database; children below the age of 18 were anyway not covered by the CNIE. It seemed the government would have to find another way to target and identify poor families and their children.

 

Besides not meeting the needs of RAMED and Tayssir, CNIE had other issues. It could not be considered a true digital identity as it lacked certain digital assets including a unique identifying number (UIN).


A New Approach


To implement a true digital identification system capable of supporting access to services and rights for all, the Government of Morocco called on the World Bank for financial and technical assistance. After a thorough assessment of the country’s present systems, the World Bank recommended the development of both a National Population Register (NPR) with a Unique Identifying Number, and a Social Register (SR).


The NPR will be a comprehensive foundational database of all individuals who have the right to reside in the country. By drawing on the existing databases—the CNIE for adults above 18, the MASSAR for children between the ages of 6-18, and the civil register (once it is put online) for those under the age of 6—the NPR will be able to create a unified register. Each individual in the register will be assigned a unique identifying number (UIN) which will be the key to linking the disparate databases. Once the multiple databases are able to use the UIN to crosscheck and link identities, there will be no room for identity fraud. The NPR will also be available for use by Morocco’s registries and social programs, existing and in the pipeline, to make secure and transparent transactions such as payment of social benefits.


The SR will be used to create a unified register of applicants of different social programs. By collecting and crosschecking their socioeconomic information as well as that of their households, the SR will ensure that the right groups are receiving the right kind of help from the government. The SR will be periodically updated, verified, and integrated with other information systems (such as taxes, utilities, and social security) for data controls and cross verification.


This approach will give Morocco the digital identification system it needs for the 21st century.