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ID4D

Counting the uncounted: 1.1 billion people without IDs

Vyjayanti T Desai's picture
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Photo: Daniel Silva Yoshisato

An estimated 1.1 billion people worldwide cannot officially prove their identity, according to the 2017 update of the World Bank's Identification for Development (ID4D) Global Dataset.

Identification matters

How do we prove who we are to the people and institutions with whom we interact? Imagine trying to open your first bank account, prove your eligibility for health insurance, or apply for university without an ID; quality of life and opportunities become severely restricted.  An officially-recognized form of ID is the key enabler – critical not only for exercising a wide range of rights but also for accessing healthcare, education, finance, and other essential services. According to the World Bank Group’s latest estimates, this is problematic for an estimated 1.1 billion people around the globe.

Addressing this most basic barrier was the rationale behind the international community’s decision to set target 16.9 in the UN Sustainable Development Goals: “to provide legal identity for all, including birth registration” by the year 2030. It was also the impetus for the World Bank Group’s launch of the Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative in 2014.

In order to work effectively towards this ambitious goal, governments and development partners need to understand the scale of the challenge – and every year the World Bank Group updates the ID4D Global Dataset to do just that. Using a combination of publicly available data (e.g. birth registration coverage rates from UNICEF) and self-reported data from ID agencies, we estimate the population without an officially recognized ID in 198 economies. In addition, we collate relevant qualitative information such as details on the agencies and ministries responsible, and the prevalence of systems which are digital (now introduced in 133 economies, but not necessarily with full coverage in each).

Making the invisible billion more visible: the power of digital identification

Vyjayanti T Desai's picture
There are an estimated 1.5 billion people around the world, largely in Asia and Africa, who do not have an officially recognized document to prove their identity.  In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than a third of its population faces this challenge and over 40% of births (in the 0-4 age group) are left unregistered. 
 
Having a formally recognized form of identity provides the poor and vulnerable with the opportunity to climb out of poverty. This is critical for achieving a wide range of development outcomes: from opening a bank account and paving the way for broader financial inclusion to accessing education services, tracking childhood vaccinations, and empowering women.  It can also strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of the state in providing critical services, such as government to person (G2P) payments, and reduce unnecessary waste of resources through better targeting.  
Photos: World Bank / Authors at Flickr World Bank  


 With the advances in technology including biometrics, data management, and the ubiquity of mobile connectivity, there is an unprecedented opportunity to deliver services faster and more efficiently than ever before.  And a country like India has also shown how, with these advances, a unique identity can be done at a scale not previously possible.
 
To reach the transformational potential of digital identification, the World Bank Group launched the Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative to support progress towards identification systems using 21st century solutions.  We are shaping country priorities through technical assistance, financial support and global expertise.  At present we are engaged with approximately 20 countries – either supporting through financial and technical advice, or through our assessment to determine gaps and help develop a forward looking roadmap.    

Joining forces to make IDs accessible to all

Mariana Dahan's picture


​Being able to prove one’s identity is more than a convenience; it is based on fundamental human rights.

​Identification (ID) is indispensable for ensuring access for individuals to educational opportunities, financial services, health and social welfare benefits, economic development, as well as allowing electoral participation for citizens.

​Yet in the developing world, more than two billion people lack an official ID. The problem disproportionately affects children and women, from poor rural areas in Africa and Asia.
 
The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda highlights the role of robust identification systems and their importance to development — specifically as one of the proposed SDG targets (#16.9), but also as a key enabler of the efficacy of many other SDG targets. Although there is no one model for providing legal identity, this SDG would encourage states provide people with free or low-cost access to widely accepted, robust identity credentials.
 
Regardless of the modalities to achieve it, unique identification — together with its associated rights — is becoming a priority for governments around the world. The international community should join forces to support this goal. 

​SDG target focusing on identification critical to supporting achievement of post-2015 development goals

Mariana Dahan's picture
Photo: © UNICEF/BANA2012-02020/Jannatul Mawa

This week, multilateral development banks (MDBs) and IMF representatives gathered for Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa (FFD3) committed to extend more than $400 billion in financing over the next three years and vowed to work more closely with private and public sector partners to help mobilize the resources needed to meet the historic challenge of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

From this perspective, FFD3 presented a unique forum for recasting development financing to meet the approach of the post-2015 development agenda. But more is needed. Investment needs in infrastructure alone reach up to US$1.5 trillion a year in emerging and developing countries.

Meeting the staggering but achievable needs of the SDG agenda requires everyone to make the best use of each dollar from every source. This means tracking with precision where, when and to whom has the money been disbursed and for what development end. It requires knowing precisely who the beneficiary was and being able to uniquely establish his/her identity. 

This is the first time that a target relating specifically to identity has been put forward as part of the global goals, as target #16.9: “Provide legal identity to all, including birth registration, by 2030.

Not only there is an intrinsic value of conferring a universal legal identity, but the identity target in the post-2015 development agenda is instrumental in achieving many of the SDGs. Indeed, the provision of robust means of identification would support the achievement of at least 10 goals:

Tracking down Ebola with biometrics and digital identity

Mariana Dahan's picture


In the last couple of months, we saw some amazing events making the news headlines. From World Bank President Jim Kim’s outstanding lecture at Georgetown University on “Lessons from Ebola”, to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) announcement that Ebola response is moving to the next stage, one may think that the pandemic is over. That no more lives will be lost to this terrifying disease.

But voices from the scientists, who have been the first to discover the Ebola virus last year, raised above the general enthusiasm and warned the international community to stay focused. Researchers from Institut Pasteur in France fear that the virus has mutated and could have become even more contagious. The new variation poses a higher risk of transmission. This means that dozens, if not thousands, of lives could be again at risk.

And while WHO shifts the focus from slowing transmission of Ebola to ending the epidemic, the world may actually be at the verge of a new pandemic emergency. With the recent surge in new cases in Sierra Leone, the world must stay focused until we reach and maintain zero cases in each affected country.

The UN Secretary General convened an International Ebola Recovery Conference last week to advocate that recovery efforts go beyond redressing direct development losses to build back better and ensure greater resilience.

Digital IDs: A powerful platform for enhanced service delivery across all sectors

Mariana Dahan's picture
Lack of personal official identification (ID) prevents people from fully exercising their rights and isolates them socially and economically — voting, legal action, receipt of government benefits, banking, and borrowing are all virtually closed off. The widespread lack of ID in developing countries is a critical stumbling block to national growth.
 
Digital IDs can help provide access to
critical services, including health care.

Digital IDs, combined with the already extensive use of mobile devices in the developing world, offers a transformative solution to the problem — a simple means for capturing personal ID that can reach far more people, as well as and new, more efficient ways for government and business to reach and serve the population.
 
Given the importance of the topic, the 2016 World Development Report (WDR) includes a Spotlight on Digital Identity, which has been developed by the authors in collaboration with various stakeholders within and outside the World Bank Group.

The 2016 WDR — the World Bank's major analytical publication — aims to advance our understanding of how economic growth, equity of opportunity and public service delivery are being affected by rapid diffusion of digital technologies. This section in 2016 WDR focuses on critical aspects, such as benefits to developing countries and implementation arrangements for Digital ID programs.

Reflections on the future of legal identity

Mariana Dahan's picture
What is “legal identity” and what might its future hold? This was the question discussed at the Future of Legal Identity Colloquium in The Hague, Netherlands last week.

At this workshop, a variety of social scientists, historians, policy researchers and development practitioners examined the various forms of civil registration and identification currently used and introduced around the world. Participants considered the opportunities and implications of the choices that poor states, in particular, currently face.

An interesting outcome of these eclectic discussions was the need to disentangle the terms “legal identity,” “citizenship,” “identification,” “registration” and “ID documentation.” This will not only allow the international community to properly understand the development problems we are seeking to address, but also help to better identify the ways to achieve them.

Indeed, in some limited respects, people possess a legal identity whether or not they are registered — for example, a criminal suspect’s right to get a lawyer or to remain silent.  Registration, in turn, may not be an entitlement to citizenship. Many countries still see citizenship as based on local or clan-based knowledge and personal attestation.

The number of people with indeterminate citizenship in Africa is probably far larger than the number of stateless people now identified. Sophisticated ID programs cannot resolve such questions and may exacerbate the difficulties of those excluded.  They need to be preceded by political dialogue and, where necessary, legal reforms to reduce the risk of exclusion. An understanding that legal identity exists in many forms encourages us to first ask which legal identity/identities we are seeking to advance and for what developmental ends[1] .

Inspirational stories from connect:ID – the journey to digital IDs for all

Mariana Dahan's picture
Today marks the end of the connect:ID conference, one of the most influential events in the United States, powered through an alliance with the world’s leading identity industry association.
 
courtesy of connect:ID

I was honored to be invited to speak on the role of identification in the post-2015 development agenda and the World Bank Group's Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative. There was great deal of excitement in the audience hearing about this global agenda.

The questions raised by the attendants touched upon ways of helping the least-developed, conflict-affected countries in the world, where the rates of birth registration and identification are amongst the lowest in the world (e.g. Liberia), to leapfrog to digital ID systems. Would the World Bank Group support such countries build their identification systems basically from scratch?

In this regard, it was interesting to hear the perspectives brought by a fellow panelist at the conference – Tariq Malik, the former chairman and the architect behind the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) of Pakistan. Starting almost from scratch, NADRA has massively enrolled the traditionally underregistered communities, including tribal groups, transgender populations and women, becoming a central player in a number of program areas. Under Tariq Malik’s leadership, NADRA has pioneered applications of biometric technology, successfully administering smart card programs for disaster relief programs and financial inclusion schemes for the underserved.

Mobile services: a game-changer for the greater good

Pierre Guislain's picture
Mobile services are the extension services of inclusion.  Increasingly, the world’s poor – and especially the bottom 40 percent in terms of income – are being reached via mobile devices by government agencies, development partners, banks, companies and others. 

As we extend networks, and in particular broadband, to reach more isolated populations and the bottom 40 percent, we need to foster the development of relevant content in substance (including government services) as well as form (including pictorial and video information for the illiterate).

 
Mobile-money services like M-Pesa have 
helped bring banking to millions in 
developing countries. Photo: Ventures Africa 
The private sector is the key driver of this entire change process, which government should facilitate.
 
The acceleration of technological change – with mobile is at the forefront – is leading to increased convergence between networks, devices, services and content providers. Judging from what I saw and heard during last week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona,  my sense is that telecommunications regulation (as  practiced today) will soon become obsolete, overshadowed by the importance of ensuring an overall balance and flexibility in this broader, converging market. 

Consequently, institutions like the World Bank will need to find better ways to ensure that key regulators talk to each other and work towards the greater public good. This includes not only telecom and competition authorities, but also broadcasting, financial services and other regulatory bodies. We should facilitate these conversations between regulators, especially in view of the fast-growing involvement of telecommunications entities in the mobile money space.

Unveiling the value of mobile identity and its role in the digital economy

Mariana Dahan's picture
At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week, topics such as Mobile Identity and Mobile for Development and Inclusion stole the spotlight. Today, it’s becoming clearer that secure digital identities can become the gateways to greater social welfare, more inclusive and transparent government and, of course, economic growth.
 
For its tenth anniversary, the Mobile World Congress had more than 2,100 companies showcasing their innovations in front of record-breaking audiences: over 93,000 attendees from 200 countries. 

The GSM Association (GSMA) also hosted a seminar program to educate conference participants on industry initiatives such as Connected Women programme: a timely undertaking that promotes gender diversity in the telecommunications sector.
 
Mobile identity offers a means of extending access to a vast array of services, such as mobile banking and mobile health, to everyone, particularly those who have been previously marginalized, including women and those living in poverty. The ability to get an identity that is verifiable online is a transformational capability that can grant access to banking, mobile payments and healthcare, as well as transportation and other advanced identity-based digital services.
 
At the most fundamental level, the planning and delivery of economic and social support programs relies on the government’s knowledge of its citizens: who they are, where they live, their social and economic circumstances, and so on. Utilizing mobile devices to register and validate an identity offers a compelling opportunity for governments and businesses to authenticate and then provide access to a broad range of digital services.

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