The introduction of biometrics to ostensibly aid the administration of social assistance has had a negative impact on a third of the most vulnerable in South Africa. Even though the initial rhetoric of introducing biometric technology was to counter fraud in the administration of social grants, a more complex reality unfolded that compromised grant money and prioritised profit making.
It appears that with a private entity fulfilling a state obligation, it continued to prioritise its profit incentive at the expense of grant beneficiaries. An important aspect of the SASSA case study is to highlight the repurposing of this state institution for the purposes of reinforcing political support and power24. There appeared to be a concerted effort by politicians and government officials to ensure that CPS continue to administer social grants. The implementation of digital technologies should not be a gateway to redesign the role of the State for private entities to fulfil the state’s function.