Take it to the bank: new Digizen ID card to drive financial inclusion in Papua New Guinea


Digizen ID, a new digital identification card developed specifically for Papua New Guinea, could be a “game changer” for the vast majority of citizens who are locked out of financial services due to a lack of formal identification. Paul Chai reports.

Villagers show off their new digital ID cards during Digizen’s recent pilot scheme. Credit: Digizen

A lack of official identification has long been considered one of the major hurdles preventing many Papua New Guineans from entering the formal economy.

“Around 80 per cent of Papua New Guineans lack ID documents and, for individuals, that means they are excluded from financial services and they are stuck in poverty,” Kimmo Koivisto, CEO of tech start-up Digizen told the recent Innovation PNG 2023 conference.

“For the banks and telcos, it also means they miss out on a huge customer segment and the government is impacted because the lack of IDs impedes economic development because only a few people participate in the formal economy.”

Biometric scanning is conducted on site with tablets – no internet required. Credit: Digizen

Finland-based Digizen, under the supervision of the Bank of Papua New Guinea (PNG’s central bank), has come up with a radical solution: change how a person proves who they are.

“Now, you can get a digital ID without any previous ID or even a mobile phone,” says Koivisto.

The simple, but revolutionary, process sees trained officers from microfinance institutions MiBank and MamaBank capture identity attributes like facial photos and fingerprints via a tablet-based enrolment system that does not require the internet.

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Identities are then confirmed by community authorities such as the village chief.

“The process has been reduced from months to minutes. A whole village can be done in a day,” says Koivisto.

A pilot program, backed by the Asian Development Bank, has already seen over 2,500 subsistence farmers and small traders enrolled in the trial in Wewak and Maprik. They were able to use their new ID cards to immediately open bank accounts.

Banking on inclusion

Digizen’s Kimmo Koivisto

In June 2023, Digizen ID was the first project to graduate from the central bank’s “regulatory sandbox”, set up in 2019 to encourage innovation in the finance sector. Digizen has since appointed its first PNG Country Director, Frank van der Poll, to oversee the scaling-up of the program.

“The aim of the BPNG regulatory sandbox is to provide an enabling environment under the safe and controlled supervision of BPNG to create opportunities that will promote economic development and employment,'” Naime Kilamanu, Chief Information Officer at the Bank of PNG, told the Innovation PNG 2023 conference.

“We recognised that to save our community and to deliver our goals of financial inclusion for all citizens we needed to help our financial sector identify and introduce innovative services and products.”

“A mandate will lead to trust and, once you get trust with institutions, then everyone trusts it. It will have an enormous impact.”

Tony Westaway, CEO of MiBank, one of the microfinance institutions involved in the pilot, says that Digizen “could be a game changer” if PNG’s big banks come on board too.

“The central bank now needs to take the next step in terms of its regulatory standard around customer due diligence and make a decision whether the biometrics that are captured under this digital project will be sufficient to meet full KYC [Know Your Customer] criteria,” says Westaway.

“At the moment, commercial banks normally require a passport or driver’s licence, which grassroots people simply haven’t got. It is our view the central bank should consider that ‘we have allowed this digital ID technology and this is it’. It should be just as acceptable as a passport or driver’s licence.”

“A mandate will lead to trust and, once you get trust with institutions, then everyone trusts it. It will have an enormous impact.”


  1. Congratulations to cut down months to minutes…

  2. Graham. says

    Why not outsource PNG NID program management and implementation to these guys or similar orgnization 🤦🏾‍♂️

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