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February 2016

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.    

Partnership for universal and affordable access to internet

Pierre Guislain's picture
A World Bank Group delegation is attending the Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest annual gathering of the telecommunications and mobile industry.  This year we take with us the messages of the World Development Report 2016: Digital technologies have spread rapidly in much of the world. In many instances, digital technologies have boosted growth, expanded opportunities, and improved service delivery. But digital dividends—that is, the broader development benefits from using these technologies—have lagged behind.
Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank


The industry representatives, government officials, and other participants in Barcelona are all convinced of the importance of the internet and mobile to improve the lives and prospects of people around the world. But many outside our technophile world do not share this view. They do not see how phone or internet connections relate to poverty reduction.

In developing countries, the typical challenge is not to convince the Minister of ICT, but rather the Ministers of Economy and Finance and the development partners of the importance of a technology strategy. Few international financial institutions or donor agencies focus their resources on the digital economy or ICT. Over the last ten years official development assistance from OECD members (ODA) to the communication technologies sector has hovered around a low 0.5% of total ODA.

A widely held view is that the private sector can take care of financing needs. Yet, the ITU has estimated the bill to bring the entire world online by the year 2020 at around US$500 billion. And the private sector is unable, or unwilling, to provide, unassisted, these huge sums of investment.

In many developing countries, especially small countries, landlocked and fragile states, as well as rural areas, the private sector views financial and operating risks as too high, in particular in view of market size.  In these frontier markets, the private sector will only take the lead in expanding connectivity if governments establishes a conducive investment climate and offers risk sharing, investment sharing and other innovative business models.  One such business model is the guaranteed prepurchase by government of connectivity capacity to meet the future needs of public services, including as local government, citizen outreach, school, health and agricultural extension services.