Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

CGD Policy Blogs

 

One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Lant Pritchett on Mimicry in Development

This podcast was originally recorded in March 2011. Development is easy, right? All poor countries have to do is mimic the things that work in rich countries and they’ll evolve into fully functional states. If only it were that simple. My guest this week is Lant Pritchett, a non-resident fellow at the Center for Global Development and chair of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Master’s program in international development. His latest work looks at how the basic functions of government fail to improve in some developing countries (a dynamic he defines as a “state capability trap”). Part of the problem, says Lant, is that donors often insist on transplanting institutions that work in developed countries into environments where those institutions don’t fit at all.

Privacy and the Biometric Revolution

What exactly is privacy? As Bob Gellman points out in his new CGD paper, the concept changes from place to place. Scandinavian countries have strict privacy laws, but tax returns are public; the United States has no broad privacy laws, but tax returns are shield from public scrutiny. In some European countries, nude sunbathing is common; in some Muslim countries, women typically appear in public wearing garments that cover the body from head to feet.  That’s all to say that privacy—and efforts to protect it—depend on context.

The Biometrics Revolution -- Alan Gelb and Julia Clark

Imagine that a government employee holding an unfamiliar device and a laptop offers to scan your iris and create for you a unique identification record. Would you agree? For hundreds of millions of people in the developing world, the answer is unequivocally “yes!” My guests on this Wonkcast are among the world’s leading experts on the burgeoning field of biometric identification and its role in development.

The Eyes Have It! Development and the Biometrics Revolution

The “identity gap” is large, but it’s closing. Over the past 10 years, developing countries from Afghanistan to Zambia—and the donors that support them—have begun to focus on identity systems. Some have sought to create or extend national identification to cover large populations that previously could not exercise basic rights or access services due to a lack of official documentation. Others have reformed government and NGO programs by creating robust identification to improve quality, increase accessibility and eliminate fraud.