Never before was the role of secure identification as essential if not appreciated as it is now. In the era of globalization, at a time where the aspiration is to grant universal inclusion of citizens as active and entitled members of society and maximum empowerment to the consumer in terms of self-determination, identification systems are leveraged by public and private sector organizations alike, as a pivotal element in modernization programs.

From a technology standpoint, while the smartphone seems to magnetize and govern innovation in the sphere of social interaction and business-to-consumer relations, other systems based on cards, biometrics, RFID and data collection technologies take center stage among the latest ICT-driven initiatives in the business-to-business arena and in government-to-citizen relations.

In the first days of 2015, the international media did not miss reporting on Egypt turning to government-issued cards, in an effort to modernize the county’s main social relief program. Making it harder to siphon off subsidies, President Al-Sisi is said to be reforming a system that drained Egypt of its finances and angered the population. By doing so, he is expected to succeed where both of his predecessors Mubarak and Mursi failed. Reports say that early implementations of Al-Sisi’s new model see accountability and control established in the dispatching of subsidized bread. Loaves offered at less than one USD cent can no longer be bought up by the early-bird customers once taking advantage of the minimal cost to feed even livestock.

The newsworthiness of Al-Sisi’s program might indeed be questionable if we focused exclusively on the technology or innovation. There is not really anything new regarding the technology used or in the intent of establishing stronger control on delivery models by leveraging IDs. Not even in the context of such an important social relief scheme. But the program undoubtedly speaks about smart policy making in view of domestic prosperity. It is worth reporting in light of the difference it is expected to make in the quality of life for the population. People no longer need to wake early to fight for bread. But there is more to it than meets the eye.

The positive fallout of ID-based social relief programs goes well beyond their immediate objective. Poverty and inequality generate suffering, creating fertile ground for extremist ideologies. Mitigating inequality is indeed the first step in the effort to eradicate them from the texture of society. In fact, Al-Sisi combats poverty leveraging cards at a time where he becomes vocal in favour of an auspicable revolution aimed at addressing Islamic radicalism. On December 28, the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt spoke to the country’s theologians and urged them to reject extremist ideology. Advocating for “religious discourse that is in keeping with its times,” Al- Sisi warned that “the Islamic nation is being torn apart and destroyed” by extremism. “Is it conceivable that 1.6 billion [Muslims] would kill the world’s population of seven billion, so that they could live [on their own]?” he said. “We need to revolutionize our religion.”

In the wake of the dramatic events that shook the international community and the world of media at the start of 2015, it seems that there are a lot of us sharing similar state of mind. As members of humanity, we have grown respectful of its variety. We feel more united than ever. None of us shall forget what the Paris attacks taught us. We are all, except for a minor part of the world’s population, beautifully aware, for the first time in history, that we can and should progress together. Radical interpretations of religion might be the mother of all dangers to our civilization, but we will not let them prevail. Freedom is far more than a generic aspiration. It is a value we are committed to protecting beyond our cultural barriers and individual preferences. We stand for liberty and we have learnt the value of tolerance.

by Sophie B. de la Giroday