Localised Trust in a Globalised Knot: Designing Information Privacy for Digital-ID

Stefanus Van Staden, Nicola J. Bidwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We designed the system that manages, verifies and exchanges identity information for Namibia's national Digital-ID. We applied Grounded Theory methods to five focus groups to understand experiences, expectations and practices in different contexts of legal identity verification and sharing. Local perspectives on privacy aligned with prevalent models for Digital-ID, in which people individually own and trade their personal information, yet they cannot be disentangled from specific social relationships. Thus, our design responds to the ways people establish trust with organisations over time and relate consent for information exchange and privacy control to accountability. We use Situational Analysis to consider how data governance is constructed in a policy-design-adoption ‘knot’ and relates to Namibia's sociotechnical imaginary of ‘unity in diversity’. Unequal telecommunications access and adoption contributes to systems that produce inegalitarian data relations but is not central in Namibia's data protection and privacy discourse, thus our thick analysis prompted designing to strengthen collective voice in governance through Government Gazettes and civil society activism. Our reflections also suggest that although design research of a real-world system in Africa offers important insights about combining individualist and collectivist orientations in data governance, their wider scholarly contribution is impeded by norms imposed by the Global North.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages37
JournalACM Journal on Computing and Sustainable Societies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024


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