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Biometrics, foreign aid, Africa, economics of resource-rich countries, growth and development, transition economies
Alan Gelb is a senior fellow and director of studies at the Center for Global Development. His recent research includes aid and development outcomes, the transition from planned to market economies, the development applications of biometric ID technology, and the special development challenges of resource-rich countries.
He was previously director of development policy at the World Bank and chief economist for the bank’s Africa region and staff director for the 1996 World Development Report “From Plan to Market.”
CGD, in partnership with the World Bank Group, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Omidyar Network, is delighted to host Nandan Nilekani, the founding chairman of UIDAI (Aadhaar), the unique identification system of India, which has enrolled more than a billion people. Nilekani will speak on “Societal Platforms: A Cambrian Approach to Sustainable Development”—how we can distill principles from the unique architecture of Aadhaar to develop new platforms, like EkStep, that can enable people to access an increasingly wide array of transformative services.
More than a billion Indian residents now have a biometric digital identity: Aadhaar. Its use across various sectors is increasing rapidly. The State of Aadhaar Report 2016-17 aims to provide a comprehensive overview of Aadhaar’s technological and operational architecture, legal and governance framework, uses in financial inclusion and social protection, and emerging applications in other sectors. Given the large scale and complicated nature of Aadhaar and its uses, the purpose of this report is to provide a holistic picture of the Aadhaar landscape over the last decade, to encourage evidence-informed discourse and decision making in the public and private sectors, and to spur future policy-relevant research projects.
Many developing countries are using digital technology to reform public service delivery. The convergence of financial inclusion, mobile networks and digital ID is transforming the way governments deliver public services and citizens access entitlements, including public subsidies. Are these reforms working? How are beneficiaries coping with the changes? Do they think they are better off than before?
The informal sector is a major source of economic activity and job opportunities in poor countries as well as emerging economies. In sub-Saharan Africa, the size of the informal sector is estimated to employ over 70 percent of the population. Why do businesses remain informal? What gains in productivity or profitability do they forego by as a result of that choice?
This work analyzes fresh data made available by updated, more comprehensive Enterprise Surveys of formal firms of various sizes and, importantly, of informal firms. It concentrates on five countries (the DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Myanmar, and Rwanda) to provide more fine-grained insights into differences in characteristics and productivity levels between formal and informal firms or different sizes in different developing countries.
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.
This paper surveys the arguments for and against cash-transfer programs in resource-rich states, discusses some of the new biometric identification technologies, and reaches preliminary conclusions about their potentially very large benefits for developing countries.
Biometric identification is spreading rapidly across the developing world, where it is helping to close the “identification gap” that separates poor countries from rich ones. India’s Unique Identification (UID) project offers important lessons for other countries.
India’s Aadhaar biometric identification scheme has registered over 1.1 billion people, including almost all adults in the country and over 15 percent of the global population. Of course, initiatives of this scale cannot escape controversy. What the debate has so far lacked, however, is data. We set out to help fill that gap with a survey focused on a digital governance initiative in the state of Rajasthan.
Attention presidential transition teams: the Rethinking US Development Policy team at the Center for Global Development strongly urges you to include these three big ideas in your first year budget submission to Congress and pursue these three smart reforms during your first year.