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New practitioner’s guide to help countries in their digital identification journey

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Over the past decade, an increasing number of countries around the world are introducing or upgrading national-scale digital identification systems and modernizing civil registration.

For example, Morocco is introducing a new national population register and civil and social digital ID  to reform its social protection system and pioneering the Modular Open Source Identity Platform (MOSIP) in the process. Somalia, which has one of the lowest levels of foundational ID coverage in the world, has an ambitious plan for a foundational digital ID system to expand access to financial services, especially international remittances.  Thailand is introducing a federated National Digital ID platform to unlock opportunities in the digital economy and improve the ease of doing business.

Each of these countries are at different stages in their digital identification journey, but all ultimately have the same goal: to make everyone count.

Digital identification systems are important because they will help close the estimated gap of one billion people who lack a foundational ID and thus struggle to prove who they are. If implemented in a way that is inclusive, trusted and sustainable—i.e., “Good” ID—they have the power to transform how services are accessed and delivered, support inclusion, and strengthen trust in the digital economy.

Apart from achieving SDG16.9 to “provide legal identity for all, including birth registration,” digital ID systems can accelerate progress towards many other SDG targets, such as those related to financial inclusion, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, universal healthcare coverage and agriculture. The development potential is immense.

At the same time, they can also pose challenges to individuals, including increasing risks to data protection and privacy, exclusion of groups who cannot access or use digital IDs, and to governments that are trapped by vendor-and technology lock-in that leads to unsustainable systems that are not fit-for purpose.

What is the ID4D Practitioner’s Guide?

How can countries harness the benefits of digital ID while mitigating the risks?  

The World Bank Group’s Identification for Development (ID4D) Initiative recently released a consultation draft of the ID4D Practitioner’s Guide for public comments throughout June. The Practitioner’s Guide is a comprehensive, user-friendly reference that will help governments, World Bank Group teams, the private sector, and other development partners design and implement foundational digital ID systems that align with the 10 Principles on Identification for Sustainable Development, now endorsed by 25 organizations.

Rather than advocating for any specific model of digital ID system, the Practitioner’s Guide walks readers through key decisions and best-practice technical options relevant for designing an entirely new system or improving an old one.   It then offers analysis and links to more in-depth tools to assess the fitness of different design choices for different contexts and goals.

Structure of the ID4D Practitioner?s Guide
Structure of the ID4D Practitioner’s Guide

The Practitioner’s Guide is based on an extensive body of analytical work that ID4D has completed in the last five years, along with rich practical knowledge that the World Bank has generated through its implementation and advisory experiences in more than 40 countries (see the 2018 ID4D Annual Report for more information). This includes over 30 Country Diagnostics, country case studies (such as from Botswana, Estonia, Korea, Moldova, India, and South Africa), and dozens of original research publications (such as on the Technology Landscape, the State of ID in Africa, the Role of ID in Forced Displacement, and Options for Mutual Recognition of National IDs in the East African Community). It also benefited greatly from the inputs and reviews of world-leading experts in a variety of domains (including the ID4D Technical Experts Group), from biometrics, cards, and mobile ID to cybersecurity, privacy-by-design, and data storage solutions.

The Guide also draws on and complements other practical tools developed by ID4D, including the ID Enabling Environment Assessment (IDEEA) Guidance Note for analyzing enabling and safeguard laws and regulations related to digital ID systems, the Cost Model to provide references and benchmarks, a Catalog of International Standards to promote interoperability and technology and vendor neutrality, and upcoming toolkits for carrying out gender ‘deep dives’ and end-user research to understand the unique needs and concerns of vulnerable populations regarding identification and authentication.

How the Practitioner’s Guide will evolve

Because digital ID is such a nascent and fast-evolving space, the Practitioner’s Guide will soon be available as a website that will be periodically updated to reflect new learnings. In the immediate future, ID4D plans to continue engaging with the global community on ways to increase data protection and people-centricity in ID systems—building on the momentum of the Mission Billion innovation challenge—and conducting research with our partners to address emerging challenges and leverage new opportunities. This includes, for example, best practices for public-private partnership (PPP) to be effective and sustainable, practical considerations for developing countries to adopt federated or decentralized models, alternatives to biometrics for establishing uniqueness, cost-effective methods of reliable authentication without connectivity, and appropriate uses of foundational digital ID systems in humanitarian contexts, among other topics. We are also scaling up our work on impact evaluations, end-user research, and civil society engagement. All of this will feed directly into updates of the Practitioner’s Guide in the future.

As momentum around digital ID for development grows we hope that the Practitioner’s Guide will prove to be a useful and informative resource for all readers.

To read the ID4D Practitioner's Guide, please visit:

The Practitioner’s Guide would not be possible without the partnership and generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Omidyar Network and the Australian Government. We look forward to your inputs to strengthen the ID4D Practitioner’s Guide further by submitting feedback through the month of June by email to


Julia Clark

Senior Economist, Identification for Development (ID4D) Initiative, World Bank

Vyjayanti T Desai

Practice Manager, ID4D and G2Px

Jonathan Marskell

Senior Program Officer, Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative, World Bank

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