As the COVID-19 pandemic started to exact a toll on lives and livelihoods in early 2020, countries imposed strict lockdowns to stem the spread of infections, disrupting economies and societies across the world. With pandemic-induced constraints on in-person interactions, many countries adopted a “digital first” approach to delivering social assistance, primarily cash transfers.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the need for a universal and portable social protection system that can uniquely verify people and deliver benefits efficiently and at scale. In most cases, existing programs are not portable, meaning those who live and work in a place other than where they are registered—like many who have migrated domestically for work—are unable to access benefits.
The COVID-19 response amounts to a significant expansion in the scale and scope of direct cash transfers as well as other social assistance—a huge increase in government-to-people (G2P) payments. As we explain in our new report, delivering on these programs will require an enormous increase in the capacity of states to implement them.
India is now recognized as a leader in digital government service delivery, enabled by the Aadhaar unique identification platform which has registered the equivalent of almost 15 percent of the world’s population. Many service delivery programs have been deployed at the state level, providing a rich comparative context. Some states have struggled to move towards effective and inclusive digitized programs while others have seemingly achieved a sophistication that is on par with, or surpasses, many developed countries’ capacities.
India’s biometric ID, Aadhaar, is here to stay. This is the verdict of India’s Supreme Court which delivered a historic judgement today on a slew of petitions challenging the growing use of Aadhaar in the country.
It's Financial Inclusion Week. Read up on how digital ID can be used to promote financial inclusion and transform governance.
India’s digital ID system has become ubiquitous and is rapidly being incorporated into service delivery. With more heat than light so far in the Aadhaar debate, the State of Aadhaar report is a major step forward in understanding the world’s largest ongoing transition to digital governance, one that is being watched closely by many other countries.
With few systematic studies of its impact on program beneficiaries, the debate on Aadhaar has, so far, seen more heat than light, but this is changing. The State of Aadhaar Report looks into many dimensions, including beneficiaries’ views of the new digital delivery systems, and the impact of the new approach—which combines financial inclusion (Jan Dhan accounts) Aadhaar, and mobiles (the so-called JAM trinity)—as well as financial inclusion and digital payments.
How do you give over a billion people a digital ID within five years? How do you improve learning for 200 million children in India and countless millions worldwide within a decade? How do you improve health outcomes for billions of poor people and achieve the goals of Universal Health Coverage within a generation? How do you solve the world’s most pressing challenges, not incrementally, but with the urgency they demand?