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Efficient, resilient, and accountable governance systems are essential to successfully manage natural resources, provide public services, foster trade, attract private investment, and manage aid relationships. Corruption and secrecy are often at odds with such goals. Illicit financial flows, for example, undermine development and governance while secrecy in extractive industries can squander a nation’s wealth and weaken the social contract.
CGD’s work in this area focuses on contact transparency, tax evasion and avoidance, efforts to combat money laundering and terrorism financing, and the negative effects they can have on remittance flows and international security.
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Read the full policy paper “Tax and Development: New Frontiers of Research and Action” here.
Or read the policy brief here.
In New York, on Valentine’s Day, 450 tax professionals will gather for a major conference on tax and development. The Platform for Collaboration on Tax, a joint effort of the IMF, OECD, World Bank, and the UN, will bring together finance ministers and senior tax officials, development agencies, foundations, International NGO leaders, academics, researchers, and tax professionals from the private sector, around the role of tax in advancing progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
This gathering—perhaps the largest and most diverse of forum on tax and development—reflects the increasing attention on tax for development, and the critical role that international civil society have played in pushing it up the agenda. It is clear that countries’ own resources are fundamental to development, providing the largest share of financing, even in the poorest countries. There is both potential and need for governments to collect more tax and to do it more effectively, as economies grow. To support this, the Addis Tax Initiative was launched in 2015: 19 donor countries, plus the European Commission pledged to collectively double their technical cooperation for domestic revenue mobilisation by 2020. Partner countries—including Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Philippines, and Uganda—pledged to step up domestic revenue mobilisation. And all players committed to promoting “Policy Coherence for Development.” Around the same time the G20/OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting programme launched into action, and now involves 111 countries, including many emerging and developing economies.
But discussion on tax and development can be pretty incoherent, both within and between different sectors. Debates between those seeking to invest and grow businesses and to improve investment environments, and those seeking to secure public revenues and accountability through domestic resource mobilisation have often been fractious, disconnected or antagonistic. A symptom of this is the tendency for inflated expectations about the scale of revenues at stake in relation to multinational corporations and misunderstandings and contested definitions on the issue of illicit financial flows.
Towards policy coherence
My new CGD paper seeks to get beyond the debates and misunderstandings about the “big numbers” to explore what real policy coherence for development over tax could mean. It highlights underexplored opportunities for improving domestic resource mobilisation if we “do tax differently” thinking of taxpayers not only as sources of incremental revenue but also as players in the economy, and stakeholders for state capability (see Eight Ideas).
Getting a sense of relative proportion about international and domestic tax issues is a critical starting point. It is often suggested by both international actors and domestic politicians that international tax issues are the most important factor holding back domestic resource mobilisation. The paper looks at broad estimates of potential additional tax in the three areas, illustrated below: (A) the domestic tax base, (B) the “overlapping tax base” between countries (such as where taxes on the profits of multinational corporations are determined using transfer pricing and tax treaties) and (C) the “hidden tax base,” where high net worth individuals use opaque offshore structures to evade taxation.
It finds that while estimates of the potential gain from improving international tax rules and administration across B and C could approach 1 percent of GDP for low and lower middle-income countries, potential additional tax from domestic policies across the broad tax base could be around 9 percent of GDP. As Mick Moore and Wilson Prichard at the International Centre for Tax and Development outline, there are significant opportunities to collect more tax as the economies of low-income countries grow, mainly through domestic policy action areas such as reviewing tax expenditures and incentives, improving VAT systems, collecting personal income taxes, property taxes, and enhancing the design of extractive sector fiscal systems. Many potential gains are achievable over time with modest financial expenditure and accessible levels of technical expertise, although care also needs to be taken that taxes do not increase poverty. The main enabler of change is political commitment strong enough to overcome vested interests among taxpayers, politicians, and tax administrators themselves. Ultimately the development benefit depends on taxes being spent well to provide valued public services.
This leaves donor countries, international organisations, foundation funders, and international NGOs with a dilemma: many of the most internationally accessible and salient levers of policy and influence relate to the 1 percent of cross-border rules rather than the other 9 percent of domestic tax policy and spending. Technical advice and capacity building in areas such as property tax and reducing tax exemptions can be “pushing on a string” if there is no political will to tax local elites more, or to give up the direct political tool of discretionary tax exemptions. There is a real danger that an intense public focus on the accessible and morally appealing (and often inflated) prospect of collecting incremental tax revenues through international tax action will distract government and civil society from a clear focus on how tax revenues, overall are collected and spent, and undermine investment. It can already be seen, particularly in the extractive industries, that inflated expectations can lead to vicious circles of policy and administration uncertainty and mistrust between taxpayers and governments, and to fiscal indiscipline and economic underperformance.
Fundamentally, what should prick the bubble of inflated expectations is remembering that for any government to collect a large proportion of its country’s GDP as tax revenue, it requires a large proportion of people in the economy to bear the burden of tax. The ability to use international mechanisms (or the push of technical advice) to compel people to pay more tax than has been secured through a social contract with their government is (thankfully) limited.
This is not just an inconvenient truth about the limits of development cooperation, but a fundamental one about the process of development. National development involves a shift from being a low productivity, low-tax country where voters do not expect fair treatment from revenue authorities or decent services from government, to being a prosperous country where public goods are secured by a government held accountable for tax and spending. It requires sustained economic growth and development of accountable institutions. And it is something that is done by people, not to people.
A path forward on taxation and development
This recognition that “tax is political” tends not to come up so much in the technically focused session of international tax conferences—focused on global tax rules, cooperation mechanisms, and capacity building programmes—but does in the late-night conversations.
Policymakers, tax experts, tax payers, tax professionals, and advocacy organisations need to find new ways to test ideas, share knowledge, collaborate, and learn together. This requires new narrative about tax and development, which is not defined by the promise of unfeasibly large revenues from taxing a narrow tax base multinationals, or solely focused on the incremental adoption of “best practice” tax policy and administration. Keeping the triple goals of revenue mobilisation, sustained economic growth and development of accountable institutions front and centre may provide a route towards common ground.
One useful way to think about the politics of taxation in practice, is in terms of the shift “from deals to rules” as described by Lant Prichett, Kunal Sen, and Eric Werker. They view development as a linked process through which fair and enforced rules co-evolve with increasingly productive economies. The linkage is that most efficient firms tend to do better in investment environments where more of the transfers to and from the business (including taxation) are through official, predictable “rules” based channels, whereas less efficient ones can out-compete them where rents can be informally negotiated through “deals.” Taxation is essentially a rules-based form of extraction. What international businesses say they hate about tax is not so much the prospect of paying it, but facing uncertainty about it.
Prichett, Sen, and Werker argue that we should stop thinking of the private sector as a homogenous group, but look instead at the microclimates for different kinds of firms, based on the relationship between local elites and international market players, and how these can give rise to constituencies for reform. This opens up opportunities to think about how internationally accessible policy and influence levers might support the political economy of efficient, rule-based business in key sectors, leveraging the interest of taxpayers as advocates and supporters of reform.
While there is certainly need for long-term thinking on global tax reform and potential redesign of the tax system, as well as immediate action to close loopholes in the international tax system, and build capacity within revenue authorities, it is worth exploring the potential to develop targeted and practical approaches which view taxpayers not simply as potential sources of additional revenue, but as potential constituencies for reform in a shift from deals to rules.
The paper raises eight ideas for win-win approaches:
An “MLI for Development.” The Multilateral Instrument (MLI) has shown how tax treaties can be changed multilaterally. Could an MLI for Development be developed based on a set of minimum treaty provisions to support the needs of developing countries to balance investment certainty and simple revenue collection?
Peer review mechanism for responsible tax practice. Multinational corporations are increasingly publishing tax principles and policies. Could businesses and others develop a peer review or broader assurance process on their practice and performance as responsible tax payers?
Dispute resolution for development. Dispute resolution and mandatory arbitration are being promoted as part of the BEPS Action Plan as a means of securing tax certainty. What steps should be taken to make dispute resolution mechanisms accessible and useful for low-income countries?
Improving the effectiveness of the UN Tax Committee. The UN Tax Committee plays an important role as a forum for developed and developing countries to address tax issues, in complement to the OECD processes, but it is constrained by lack of resources and some of its own procedures. How should the UN Tax Committee evolve to make it a more effective forum to serve the needs of developing countries?
Business tax roadmaps. The Global Platform is promoting Medium Term Revenue Strategies as a coordination mechanism for policy, administration and legal development. Beyond being a bureaucratic mechanism linked to international funding, could governments engage with business stakeholders and develop business tax roadmaps to certainty to enable long-term investments?
Technology solutions for identity assurance. The ability to identify the ultimate beneficial owners of accounts and corporations is crucial to detecting, tracking, and preventing illicit financial flows, and for tax administration, but, it does not necessarily follow that all ownership details should be required to be publicly searchable. Could a blockchain or other technology solution be used to provide a solution for compliant confidentiality, and secure identity and beneficial ownership certification?
Investment grade tax policy for project finance. Tax uncertainty is a key barrier in developing multi-country investments such as power and infrastructure projects with bespoke deals often negotiated to overcome underlying complexity in the tax system. Could a simplified system for taxation of project finance be developed through a multisector collaboration involving governments, private sector, and development finance institutions?
A “race to the top” of international financial centres. International Financial Centres are decried as ‘tax havens’, but at the same time they provide useful access to internationally trusted legal systems and modern, simple administration. Can the characteristics of a responsibly competitive international financial centre be identified, measured and developed into an index of responsible competitiveness of financial centres demonstrating integrity and ability to mediate and support investment?
I will continue to point out misunderstandings and inflated expectations around the tax “big numbers,” if they continue to be produced. The aim is not to turn people away from focusing on the international aspects of tax and development but to see if we can find a common ground to explore and test ideas which could gain the support of policymakers, taxpayers, civil society, international organisations, and tax professionals.
The flood of excitement around private investment supporting public provision of services shows no sign of receding in capital cities from Washington to Harare to Phnom Penh. Public-Private Partnership (PPP) models continue to proliferate, backed by multilateral development banks (MDBs) old and new: the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and BRICS’ New Development Bank have joined the list of champions. But the volume of PPPs in developing countries has stagnated since the global financial crisis, and they won’t deliver unless they are designed and implemented well. Making more and better public-private investments will take a far greater commitment to transparency from participants in the deals. Financiers—MDBs in particular—should take the lead.
PPPs have a mixed record: alongside successes, we’ve seen overpriced, under-utilized projects that have burdened the taxpayer at little or no benefit to the country. That’s in part because the deals are immensely complex to design—beyond physical infrastructure, they often involve contract terms around input prices, service prices and quality, regulation, land, and employment, for example. And because of the scale and complexity it is unsurprising that some of these projects involve more than the whiff of corruption.
Because transparency provides valuable information to investors, learning opportunities to government and assurance to citizens, it is widely accepted that principles for PPP development should enshrine transparency. The good news is that there are models that exist that we can learn from and that MDBs are well placed to champion.
Amongst information that it suggests should be routinely disclosed:
Financial information: financing structure, estimates, and actual revenues (limited by contract type), and forecast and actual equity return (limited by structure and contract type)
Government support: guarantees, grants, land, rights, payments for service, and others
Tariffs: tariff methodology and review and regulation
Performance: actual performance against targets, actual penalties against contract provisions, independent engineer or auditor report, and user feedback and surveys
Contract termination: termination provisions and handover provisions
Renegotiations or changes: details of changes, impact of change on cost, fiscal commitments and contingent liabilities, risk allocation, tariff or payment, and services or levels of service
Maintenance and provision of information: list of reports, documents, and other information the private provider should maintain and submit to authority, website and displays at site, timelines for submission and disclosure, and penalties for non-submission
While the list has limitations as Motoko Aizawa among others has detailed (not least inadequate coverage of information pertaining to non-financial risks), it is a helpful start. Project financiers could take a lead in pushing towards routine disclosure of this information. That’s not least because financiers have both the leverage to push for transparency and a self-interest in seeing it. They are at risk if unpublished provisions mandate politically toxic or financially unsustainable conditions on governments or the public, they have much to benefit if the number and sustainability of deals increases thanks to better design and greater public confidence.
A role for development finance institutions
And, amongst financiers—both MDBs and their private sector financing divisions—with their mandate to support broad-based development, should be leading efforts towards transparency (as the institutions themselves frequently suggest). That’s both for the benefits that would accrue to their client countries as well as the greater confidence it should provide to their own shareholders.
One model of a development finance institution (DFI) leading on standards for better private investment is the Equator Principles, spearheaded by the International Finance Corporation. These are a financial industry benchmark for determining, assessing and managing environmental and social risk in project finance. 92 Equator Principles Financial Institutions (EPFIs) in 37 countries have officially adopted the EP, covering over 70 percent of international Project Finance debt in emerging markets. Similarly, the IFC along with other DFIs could develop, implement, and promote routine disclosure Principles for PPPs—the Four P’s or P4s, perhaps.
As critics of EITI and other transparency initiatives point out, transparency alone does not assure good governance of projects. And the Equator Principles are voluntary, with compliance not always easy to gauge—there is no enforcement mechanism. MDBs and DFIs would need to work with civil society and governments to ensure PPP transparency is accompanied by greater accountability. But transparency is a first step—and it is past time for the development banks to practice what they preach on the issue.
As leaders of countries and corporations from around the world gather in a tony ski resort for this week’s World Economic Forum annual meeting, they will pass by posters showing the faces of people whose daily income is less than the price of a Swiss cup of coffee. The distance between those leaders and the people on the posters may be immense, but it is shrinking rapidly thanks to new digital technologies. Armed with a digital ID, a mobile phone, and a bank account, the landless laborer in rural Bangladesh is becoming an integral part of the new digital economy that will shape the politics and profits of the future. The top of the pyramid (Davos invitees) can no longer ignore the bottom (like the women in the Indian village described in a recent CGD blog post).
As the WEF notes, digitization is transforming business models, the policy landscape, and social norms. But what does it mean on the ground? Over the past few months, we’ve been analyzing a dataset from the Indian state of Rajasthan to better understand the use and impact of digital technology on people. Among other things, the data show how digital technology can be used to improve the delivery of subsidies and pensions and to achieve financial inclusion; nearly 100 percent of household survey respondents now have a bank account. That’s an impressive accomplishment, but it is not the whole story. We’re concurrently finding gaps in how much people actually use those accounts. Likewise, even though women do transact on the accounts, it is still men who use the household mobile phone (and by extension control the family finances), often because women lack the requisite mobile literacy. Digitization can be inclusive but it opens the risk of a gender-based digital divide.
For the policymaker looking to improve services and the delivery of benefits, or for the financial institution trying to expand its customer base, the gap between technical solutions and the situation of the average technology user represents fertile ground for the many new opportunities that the digital economy provides.
Governments can use technology to reduce exclusion…
Governments are investing significant resources to create digital infrastructure, but these investments will only realize their full potential if the private sector takes advantage of digital public goods. For example, last week CGD learned how Malawi has just achieved near-universal electronic ID coverage for its adult population in less than six months. The government and institutional donors together invested $52 million to register all adults at a cost of around $5.50 per head. This is a significant outlay for Malawi, but the government anticipates many benefits, ranging from extending the right to identification to their citizenry to increasing tax revenues and expunging payroll ghosts. Also important are the opportunities for the private sector, such as increased financial inclusion and enhanced ability to travel.
Malawi isn’t alone. Governments—from municipalities up to the national level—are using digital technologies to accomplish a variety of goals as several recent CGD publications have pointed out. Specifically:
Targeting the poor with transfer subsidies directly into their bank accounts generates fiscal savings, allows governments to eliminate market distortions, and fosters competitive markets (see CGD case study of India’s targeted liquid petroleum gas subsidy).
Financial inclusion supported by electronic Know Your Customer (e-KYC) based on digital ID opens up opportunities for formal participation in financial markets, especially for women.
…and there’s a huge role for the private sector as well
In and of themselves, improvements in public programs can yield substantial economic and social benefits. But the greatest benefits will come if the private sector builds on top of the digital infrastructure to expand opportunities. One might think of the private sector as the multiplier effect on top of a digital government stimulus package. Take the opportunities that India’s Unified Payments Interface opened to the mushrooming number of private providers of digital financial services, or the dramatically lowered cost to onboard a banking client through its e-KYC service. India is not alone; the identification infrastructure built in Kenya underpins its remarkable expansion of mobile financial services. The ID system reports responding to over a million identity checks a day through its automated system, mostly from financial institutions.
This is not just the public sector trumpeting about possibilities either: Mastercard, the Secure Identity Alliance, and the GSMA (a worldwide trade organization of mobile network operators) have all endorsed the Principles on Identification for Sustainable Development, which CGD facilitated in 2017 with the World Bank Group.
As policymakers and private actors gather at Davos, enthusiasm over technological innovation will undoubtedly run high. But that technology is most effective when everyday users—not just early adopters—can easily take advantage of it. How can we extend human-centered design to focus on the millions who are entering the digital economy every day? Finding ways to ensure that all groups on the margin are included is not only a political and social imperative, but an opportunity for the private sector to serve new markets in the digital economy. The leaders in Davos are just a WhatsApp message away.
Vijaya Ramachandran, Ben Leo, Jared Karlow and I have just published twopapers looking at where and in what capacity the IFC, OPIC, and selected European development finance institutions (DFIs) are investing their money. The core of the papers is a dataset that Jared painstakingly put together by scraping public documentation about DFI projects. It wasn’t easy because DFIs are considerably behind many aid agencies in releasing usable data on their portfolios. And that lack of transparency presents a significant problem if those same DFIs spend aid money on subsidizing the private sector.
Aid transparency and the Private Sector Window at IDA
I’ve written before about the somewhat confusing new $2.5 billion Private Sector Window (PSW) that IDA (the bit of the World Bank Group which normally gives very low interest loans and grants to poor countries) has set up to subsidize IFC (the bit of the World Bank that invests in private sector projects in developing countries) to do more work in the world’s poorest economies. Nancy Lee has provided an overview of how it will work and some questions of her own, as well as a broader discussion of private sector windows and subsidies. Here I want to highlight one concern: the PSW takes (comparatively) transparent aid money and turns it into (almost completely) opaque private finance.
As Stefan Koeberle, the World Bank Director for Strategy, Risk and Results was happy to report in 2016, IDA is among the top 10 rankings when it comes to aid transparency. “The World Bank joined [the International Aid Transparency Initiative] when it was launched in 2008, and we published our first IATI data in 2011, but publication of IATI data is just a small part of our efforts to be an open institution,” he noted. “Detailed information on Bank supported projects, including procurement data, is available from the projects and operations database.” When it comes to IDA-financed projects we know the financial terms of the credits and grants, we have detailed and specific data on what the finance will be used for and where, and we know how much contractors were paid to deliver precisely what goods and services where.
The World Bank on how governments should finance the private sector
And the World Bank Group also gives out a lot of advice on how governments that provide finance to the private sector should operate. There are the detailed procurement rules governing goods and services purchased using World Bank finance, based on fundamental principles including that “all eligible bidders” should have “the same information and equal opportunity to compete” and “the importance of transparency.” Regarding public-private partnerships to deliver services, amongst a long list, the World Bank says the financing structure, estimates, and actual revenues, forecast and actual equity return, guarantees, and grants involved in all such deals should all be published.
When it comes to unsolicited proposals, Philippe Neves, senior infrastructure specialist at the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) suggests:
This all seems very sensible. Government funds, including and perhaps aid in particular, that go to the private sector should do so in a manner that is competitive and highly transparent—and the less competitive, the more transparency matters.
How IDA finances the private sector
But compare the World Bank Group’s words with its actions when it comes to using IDA (government cash) to subsidize IFC projects (private firms). IFC is largely in the business of unsolicited bids: client firms come to it to with a project idea. That will not change with regard to projects that utilize the new IDA funding, and suggests the increased importance of transparency. But following standard IFC practice, the process of awarding subsidy will be non-competitive and ultimately based on unsolicited interest by client companies. And following standard IFC practice, none of the financing structure, estimates, and actual revenues, forecast and actual equity return, guarantees and grants involved will be released. In its defense and to its credit, IFC does now publish to IATI, so you can find brief details on which firms got how much money from the IFC to do what, where—but none of the above information has been released.
The IFC might say its clients (firms) simply wouldn’t accept competitive approaches nor would they accept the level of transparency that the rest of the World Bank thinks is appropriate. There are three responses to those concerns: (1) they are testable hypotheses; (2) there are approaches that would allow transparency about the use of aid-financed subsidies while keeping secret details including equity return: standard public offers of subsidy packages to be awarded to all IFC client companies operating in a particular country or sector, for example. And third, if IFC really can’t do subsidies the right way, maybe it shouldn’t be doing subsidies at all. The same applies to other DFIs, and is an urgent issue if aid financing is going to be used this way.
The bottom line
Transparency matters. It helps ensure that government money is being used fairly and efficiently, not for private gain at public expense. And it reassures citizens and the private sector alike that this is the case. Aid is too scarce and too valuable to be distributed in the dark.
Recent advances in the scope and sophistication of identification systems could have far-reaching consequences for development. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are common features that ID systems should share if they are to support development.
Digital identification has become a focus for development policies and programs, and not a moment too soon. ID programs are being rolled out at a rapid pace, often in countries with little in the way of identification infrastructure. The capabilities of the new systems are dramatically increased through digital technology, in particular, biometrics, while their reach is expanding through integration with mobile technology. Some developing countries are at the global frontier. India’s Aadhaar program is a pioneer in digital identification on several fronts, including through the program’s integration with mobiles and financial accounts to reform the country’s vast array of schemes and programs (the so-called JAM Strategy) and its use as a platform for a range of advanced services (the “India Stack”). Similarly innovative and sophisticated systems are being rolled out in many countries.
Our new book—Identification Revolution: Can Digital ID be Harnessed for Development—considers where these trends are heading. Is everyone on the planet fated to be uniquely identified by a number? What are the implications for development? Will the new systems help people to assert their existence and their rights, strengthen the administration of public programs and enhance government accountability, and open up opportunities by reducing transactions costs? Or will the new systems exacerbate already-existing risks, such as the exclusion of vulnerable groups and the erosion of privacy? Will the considerable sums being spent on the new systems prove to be a waste of money?
The Opportunities and Risks of the ID Revolution
We wrote this book to provide a basis for discussion of this rapidly evolving area. We conclude that digital ID has the power to do both tremendous good and to inflict serious harm depending on how it is used. On the positive side, not only is “legal identity” now recognized as an SDG in its own right, but the ability to assert one’s identity is also important for the achievement of at least eight SDGs and 19 targets, from enabling access to economic resources to financial inclusion, gender equality and empowerment, social protection, and clean elections. Together, identification and enhanced payments systems, especially through mobiles, have the potential to greatly strengthen state capacity.
On the other hand, there are also examples that illustrate the potential downsides. Some of the systems in use today to help deliver social payments or underpin engagements between citizen and state have their origins in repressive or exclusionary policies; examples include Spain and South Africa. Several countries have committed millions of dollars to ID systems that have delivered few benefits to the poor; in some cases, the formalization of identification processes had led to increased statelessness and marginalization. But, given the many powerful drivers for implementing the new systems, it is not realistic to turn back the clock. Every country in Africa, for example, either has, or has committed to, a national ID system. The task is to ensure that digital ID systems are as development-friendly as possible.
Making Digital ID Work for Development
How can stakeholders support development-focused ID systems? First, they should take the SDG agenda seriously. Together, the identity-related goals and targets include virtually all the useful applications of ID systems. If there is not a coherent plan to link systems with such uses, the ID-related investments are not likely to produce much of a development return.
Second, governments and development partners should move towards a more strategic view of identification policies and systems as a component of development policies and investments, including the goal of an integrated, lifetime system encompassing civil registration and identification. This strategic priority applies to both developing countries and their development partners; in previous research we found that donors have been supporting many ID programs, but in an ad hoc way directed to particular projects, whether a transfer or health program, or an election. This approach may have supported useful experimentation but has also contributed to multiple redundant systems.
Third, the development community needs to move toward a common set of principles to help shape engagement. These include the essential principle of inclusion of poor and vulnerable groups; a focus on the legal and institutional basis for the systems to ensure that they support, rather than erode, users’ rights (including data privacy: only about half of developing countries have a legal framework covering this area); and technical features and standards to ensure robust performance and avoid countries being locked-in by vendor-specific hardware and software.
Progress Toward a Strategic Approach to ID and Development
Fortunately, there is progress. So far, some 22 organizations—virtually all the significant players in the area—have endorsed a set of common principles to help establish a shared understanding of the issues and encourage cooperation. The multilateral development banks and many bilateral agencies have launched initiatives to facilitate a strategic approach to identification and improve our understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of multiple country systems. New initiatives, such as ID4Africa, have been established to enable South-South learning by bringing together governments, development partners, and the identification industry itself to share experiences and learn about the still-rapidly-evolving technology. Emerging work on technical standards and open source approaches can help countries avoid vendor lock-in and foster interoperability between digital ID systems, including across borders.
It is still early days in the identification revolution, but understanding the institutions, policies, and technologies shaping digital identification systems today will be critical for anyone concerned with inclusion, governance, access to rights, the quality of service delivery, and many more issues at the heart of twenty-first century development. Our book offers a primer on identification and registration systems in the digital age, including practical guidance for governments and development partners on ensuring that digital ID systems achieve their full development potential.
Due to the potential for snow tomorrow, we are unfortunately canceling this event. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to see you at CGD soon.
Please join Crispian Olver for a discussing of his latest book How to Steal a City: The Battle for Nelson Mandela Bay: An Inside Account. How to Steal a City is an insider account of this intervention, which lays bare how the administration was entirely captured and bled dry by a criminal syndicate, how factional politics within the ruling party abetted that corruption, and how a comprehensive clean-up was eventually conducted.