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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.

Pakistan’s success is being followed by other developing countries. Hammam Riza, the Deputy Chairman for BPPT[1] in Indonesia, has expressed government’s vision of having the newly-implemented digital ID system as a platform for service delivery across multiple sectors. As the country is embarking on this journey, the digital ID system is expected to offer access to a range of government services, cutting the intermediaries and bureaucracy, and therefore creating a direct partnership between citizens and state.

This aspiration is being supported by the Chair of the session, Alan Gelb of the Center for Global Development, who’s just back from Indonesia himself: “Digital ID technology is increasingly used in developing countries and promises large gains”,  he said. But its implementation often faces challenges and risks, including legal gaps in data privacy legislation and the rule of law.

As the World Bank Group is shaping the ID4D agenda, we need to consider policy implications for client countries, donors who support these programs and the industries deploying them.
 
[1] IT, Energy and Material Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), which serves various Ministries and Agencies of Indonesian government, including Ministry of Home Affairs (National e-ID), National Election Committee (e-Election, e-Voting), the Ministry of Defense (Enterprise Architecture for Defense Information System), Ministry of ICT (Digital TV Early Warning System), Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM), and many other e-Government projects.

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