Anit Mukherjee on why ID is so important for development, what needs to happen to keep people’s data safe, and what developing countries who are considering implementing new ID systems need to know.
CGD Policy Blogs
For the policymaker looking to improve services and the delivery of benefits, or for the financial institution trying to expand its customer base, the gap between technical solutions and the situation of the average technology user represents fertile ground for the many new opportunities that the digital economy provides.
Digital identification has become a focus for development policies and programs, and not a moment too soon. Identification Revolution: Can Digital ID be Harnessed for Development considers where these trends are heading.
What Can India's Biometric ID System Do for Development? – Podcast with Aadhaar Architect Nandan Nilekani
India's biometric ID system Aadhaar has provided over a billion people with digital IDs, and changed how the country's government provides services and subsidies. But opponents of the system say that Aadhaar erodes people’s privacy. Nandan Nilekani, the chief architect of the platform, joins the CGD podcast to address these concerns, discuss the platform's progress, and share his vision for future uses of "societal platforms."
Aadhaar has already demonstrated the potential of digital ID to transform systems of governance and increase efficiency of private transactions. By addressing the genuine concerns of individual privacy and data protection, it can lead by example as it has done on the technological side. The right to privacy judgement by India's Supreme Court is an opportunity to make Aadhaar a bigger success than it already is. India can learn from other countries to do just that.
The state of Rajasthan in north India has become the digital frontier, with a program that registers all family members under a single identity document known as the “Bhamashah Card,” but it still has to overcome significant challenges of poverty and inequality. In a state that is similar in size and population to Germany, it is no small achievement to take on the ambitious task of providing each family with a unique ID and deliver it within a short span of three years.
In the modern world, many everyday transactions—such as opening a bank account, registering for school, activating a SIM card or mobile phone, obtaining formal employment, or receiving social transfers—require individuals to prove who they are. For an estimated 1.5 billion people in developing countries, this creates a serious obstacle for full participation in formal economic, social, and political life. With this in mind, more than 15 global organizations have jointly developed a set of shared Principles that are fundamental to maximizing the benefits of identification systems for sustainable development while mitigating many of the risks.
These recent developments in identification, combined with rising mobile phone ownership, broadening Internet access, and innovative payment delivery mechanisms, can be harnessed to transform the way states implement poverty-reduction programs and improve the lives of their citizens. Digital payments promise faster, more transparent, and lower-cost delivery for existing cash-based government transfers, and can also transform the way governments deliver subsidies. In a new background paper, Dan Radcliffe reviews the evidence on the gains from digital payments and pinpoints four ways in which they can improve development outcomes.
The biometrics revolution has allowed more countries to create strong ID systems for their citizens. These systems have mostly relied on fingerprinting, but with the advent of low-cost, highly effective iris readers this is about to change.
Some 2.4 billion people lack widely-recognized forms of legal identity. Over 600 million are children whose births have not been registered. How can wider access to identity – now recognized for the first time as a development goal in SDG target 16.9 -- help to achieve the SDGs?