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Identification Revolution: Can Digital ID Be Harnessed for Development?

January 23 @ 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

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Speaker: Alan Gelb

Topic Summary:  Recent advances in the scope and sophistication of identification systems have been nothing less than revolutionary. Since 2000, over 60 developing countries have established national ID programs, and digital technology, particularly biometrics such as fingerprints and iris scans, has dramatically expanded their capabilities.  At their best, ID systems can advance the Sustainable Development Goals by helping to realize individual rights, build state capacity, improve accountability, and expand opportunity. But at their worst, they can exclude vulnerable groups, support institutionalized discrimination, facilitate the exploitation of personal data and waste a lot of money.

Alan Gelb will present his new book (with Anna Diofasi Metz):  Identification Revolution: Can Digital ID Be Harnessed for Development?.   It provides a balanced perspective on this new area, covering both the benefits and the risks of the identification revolution, and pinpointing opportunities to mitigate those risks. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are common features that ID systems should share if they are to support development. Principles that speak to inclusion, robust and responsive design, and accountable governance, and good-practice examples from countries at the forefront of ID management, provide a list of areas that development partners should consider as ID programs move forward.

Alan Gelb is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development.   He previously held a number of positions at the World Bank, including Chief Economist of the Africa Region and Director of Development Policy.  Since leaving the Bank his work has focused on the development applications of biometric identification, as well as results-based financing and industrial development in Africa.


January 23
11:00 am - 12:30 pm


MC 4-100
United States