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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.
As governments across the globe begin to use direct transfers to get money to citizens unable to work, a new report from the Center for Global Development finds that just 56% of citizens across 99 developing countries have access to a phone, a bank account, and an ID. Those three things, the researchers find, are the building blocks for the successful rollout of digital government transfers, from emergency cash transfers in a pandemic to everyday government programs like pensions and food subsidies.
Tariq Malik, former chairman, National Database and Registration Authority, Pakistan
Pakistan is a leader in the application of identification systems and technology to a range of development issues. The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) of Pakistan has become a central player in a number of program areas and has been internationally recognized for its expertise, including winning many awards for excellence.
This paper surveys 160 cases where biometric identification has been used for economic, political, and social purposes in developing countries. One primary conclusion is that identification should be considered as a component of development policy, rather than being seen as just a cost on a program-by-program basis.
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.