In the modern world, many everyday transactions—such as opening a bank account, registering for school, activating a SIM card or mobile phone, obtaining formal employment, or receiving social transfers—require individuals to prove who they are. For the estimated 1.5 billion people in developing countries who lack proof of identity (World Bank data, 2016), this creates a serious obstacle for full participation in formal economic, social, and political life. Like individuals, governments also need robust, secure identification systems to perform core state functions and administer many of the programs and services vital for development, including social transfers, education and healthcare, and emergency and disaster response.
Growing awareness of the need for more inclusive, robust identification systems has led to a global call to action, embodied in Target 16.9 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): “by 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration”. As public attention is increasing, a number of successful initiatives from around the world have highlighted the development benefits of reliable identification systems.