Will ID cards be digital only in the future?

2023-02-20 Leuphana researcher examines the digital transformation of identification

Lüneburg. Whether birth registration, contacts between citizens and authorities or border controls: The establishment and proof of identity are about to become digital. Prof. Dr. Stephan Scheel of Leuphana University Lüneburg is investigating the changes this will bring, for example, to the relationship between the state and citizens in his research project "Doing Digital Identities".. The project, which has just begun and is scheduled to run for five years, is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) with a sum of 1.5 million euros.

So far, the impact of digital ID devices has been studied mainly in relation to criminal suspects and immigrants, but not with a view to the majority of the population. For his project, Scheel wants to use the current moment of digital transformation to explore how the political institution of citizenship is reshaped in the digital age and how the relationship between citizens and state authorities is changing as a result of the move towards digital methods of identification.

The political sociology expert will explore the design, implementation, and use of digital ID devices in one international and five national case studies. In addition to Germany, his research will extend to Estonia, Indonesia, Malawi and Sierra Leone. Each of the country case studies is unique and is designed to look at very different developed or developing systems and their impact.

"I'm particularly interested in this context in how digital ID devices are reshaping the lived experience of citizenship," Scheel explains. He says this involves citizenship as a legal status and a formal relation to the state as well as a form of belonging to a political community and the possibility of asserting social and political rights.