In this episode, Tracey Caldwell talks to Alan Gelb, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. He is the co-author, with Julia Clark, of the report ‘Identification for Development: The Biometrics Revolution‘ which looks at how biometric-based identity programmes are being used in developing countries.
In contrast to rich countries, where biometric ID is chiefly used for security and surveillance applications, in the poorer parts of the world it is playing a significant role in something far more fundamental – giving people an identity that allows them to participate fully in their societies.
A great many people come into this world uncredentialled: there is no automatic identification of people at birth, nor any proof of identity that follows them through their lives. There are around 48 million unrecorded births every year. This often means that people simply never become full members of their society and miss out of many of its entitlements. And providing reliable proof of identity can be tricky.
Biometric ID programmes – using technologies such as fingerprint or iris recognition – provide a trustworthy identity that, for example, ensures a person’s access to health services, to social benefits and to the voter booth.
But not all such programmes have been successful. What are the critical factors to success? Is it just about technology? And what might successful implementations of biometric programmes in poor countries have to teach the wealthier nations?
» Identification for Development: The Biometrics Revolution – Working Paper 315 by Alan Gelb and Julia Clark, Center for Global Development.