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Digital technology is changing the way we do development. Viral videos, crowdsourced donations, digital cash transfers for refugees—what opportunities do these technologies present, and how can those of us working on policy innovation make better use of them?
For one thing, technology “has changed the way we look at projects and their effectiveness. It’s now getting more possible to have real-time results on initiatives,” Raj Kumar, founder of the online development hub Devex, tells me in this week’s podcast. “We can know pretty quickly what’s working and what’s not… and hopefully make mid-course corrections.”
But Kumar says we could be doing a whole lot more: “Our systems are still generally set up for the old world and we are not really anticipating the opportunities that the growth in digital technology provides.”
Example: when I say "development technology," do you think of mobile phones? If so, you're not alone. While that’s a great start, "this revolution was not a mobile phone revolution and now it’s over," Kumar says. "We’re at the beginning of a massive shift in terms of digital technologies . . . . What’s it going to be like five years from now?’”
"There’s quite a bit that has to happen on the policy front to match the digital technology revolution, and the opportunity that presents, with the way [development] actually functions.”
Aadhaar, the world’s largest biometric ID program, is at a crossroads. After a remarkable effort to enroll almost the entire Indian population of 1.25 billion in just over half a decade, its impact on privacy and distribution public benefits are being called into question.
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.
Policies put in place to counter financial crimes have unfortunately had a chilling effect on banks’ willingness to do business in markets perceived to be risky—due in part to the high price of compliance. Even as changes are being made to address this problem, financial institutions are developing solutions in the form of new cutting-edge technologies to help them comply better and faster with anti-money laundering regulations.