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Emerging technologies such as digital payments, biometric ID, and blockchain hold great promise but also pose challenges in certain areas, including privacy and data security. CGD research brings a clear-eyed view to key questions facing technologists and development practitioners: what is the realistic potential of blockchain to deliver aid money more speedily and securely? Or to help people access their rights? Our work on India’s biometric payments system Aadhaar asks how it is transforming a billion Indian lives, and how might the technology help other developing countries interested in expanding the digital economy.
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.
This paper presents short-term results from an experiment randomizing the promotion and registration of a mobile savings account among women microentrepreneurs in Tanzania, with and without business training. Six months post-intervention, the results show that women save substantially more through the mobile account, and that the business training bolstered this effect.
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.