Identification for Development:The Biometrics Revolution
Formal identification is a prerequisite for development in the modern world. The inability to authenticate oneself when interacting with the state—or with private entities such as banks—inhibits access to basic rights and services, including education, formal employment, financial services, voting, social transfers, and more. Unfortunately, underdocumentation is pervasive in the developing world. Civil registration systems are often absent or cover only a fraction of the population. In contrast, people in rich countries are almost all well identified from birth. This “identity gap” is increasingly recognized as not only a symptom of underdevelopment but as a factor that makes development more difficult and less inclusive. Many programs now aim to provide individuals in poor countries with more robust official identity, often in the context of the delivery of particular services. Many of these programs use digital biometric identification technology that distinguish physical or behavioral features, such as fingerprints or iris scans, to help “leapfrog” traditional paper-based identity systems. The technology cannot do everything, but recent advances enable it to be used far more accurately than previously, to provide identification (who are you?) and authentication (are you who you claim to be?). Technology costs are falling rapidly, and it is now possible to ensure unique identity in populations of at least several hundred million with little error. This paper surveys 160 cases where biometric identification has been used for economic, political, and social purposes in developing countries. About half of these cases have been supported by donors. Recognizing the need for more rigorous assessments and more open data on performance, the paper draws some conclusions about identification and development and the use of biometric technology. Some cases suggest large returns to its use, with potential gains in inclusion, efficiency, and governance. In others, costly technology has been ineffective or, combined with the formalization of identity, has increased the risk of exclusion. 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. Within such a strategic framework, countries and donors can work to close the identification gap, and in the process improve both inclusion and the efficiency of many programs
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2000. "Who Are the Ineligible EITC Recipients?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(4), pages 1165-1186, December.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:315. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (David Roodman)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.