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A growing number of developing countries are using biometric technologies to create national identification programs or for more specific needs, including cash transfers, voter registration, and disaster relief. CGD’s research shows how biometric ID can help improve public service delivery, advance progress on many of the Sustainable Development Goals, and helps shape global best practice in applications that use the technology. Our work on India’s pioneering Aadhaar system aims to understand how it has impacted a billion Indian lives, and how the technology could be useful to other developing countries.
What role can biometrics play in aiding development? My guest this week, senior fellow Alan Gelb, explains why new biometric identification technologies may be the key to radically expanding the social, political, and commercial opportunities for people in the developing world. Biometrics, he says, make it possible to fulfil for people everywhere the right to a unique, personal identity.
According to current estimates, some 10,000 people have been killed in the Philippines by super-typhoon Haiyan, 620,000 displaced, and over 9 million affected. Emergency relief and reconstruction assistance will be required on a large scale and for an extended period – perhaps more frequently in future years as climate change leads to an increase in extreme weather events.
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.
In the wake of Zimbabwe’s disputed reelection of Robert Mugabe, it is alleged that dead voters accounted for one-third of the voter rolls, that 63 constituencies had more registered voters than actual inhabitants even though 2 million potential voters under 30 went unregistered. The elections have left many asking if biometrics are the future of voting.
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.
Biometric identification systems that are in place or under consideration in many countries present significant privacy consequences principally relating to information privacy or data protection. This paper discusses personal privacy in the context of the adoption of biometric identification systems.
CGD continued its commitment to the subject of financial inclusion with the release this March of Financial Regulations for Improving Financial Inclusion. As co-chairs of the Task Force that produced this report, we are enthused to see much alignment between the High-Level Principles of the G20 and the CGD Task Force report.
India has embarked on a program using biometric identification to enable a shift from blanket price-based energy subsidies to targeted compensation payments based on actual, individual energy purchases.
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.
Can biometric IDs encourage women’s financial inclusion and economic and social empowerment? In principle, the answer should be yes. But the potential impact is limited by a range of other impediments that limit women’s participation.
Indonesia’s rate of birth registration is imprecisely measured but is low, especially among the poorer, rural, population. At the same time, the country has developed a system of population registration with wide, if not universal, coverage. In addition, under current regulations that link legal recognition of paternity to the existence of a legal marriage, many children can only receive a birth certificate with the name of the mother. Such a credential is widely seen as less than desirable, creating a situation where children are discriminated against on the basis of the marital status of their parents.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that India will, starting Jan 1st in 51 districts, pay cash directly into the accounts of poor families as it begins unraveling its convoluted web of food, fuel and other subsidies. India’s been toying with this idea for a while, so it’s good news that it’ll finally kick-off in the New Year. Many others will be watching.