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Biometrics, foreign aid, Africa, economics of resource-rich countries, growth and development, transition economies
Alan Gelb is a senior fellow and director of studies at the Center for Global Development. His recent research includes aid and development outcomes, the transition from planned to market economies, the development applications of biometric ID technology, and the special development challenges of resource-rich countries.
He was previously director of development policy at the World Bank and chief economist for the bank’s Africa region and staff director for the 1996 World Development Report “From Plan to Market.”
How do you give over a billion people a digital ID within five years? How do you improve learning for 200 million children in India and countless millions worldwide within a decade? How do you improve health outcomes for billions of poor people and achieve the goals of Universal Health Coverage within a generation? How do you solve the world’s most pressing challenges, not incrementally, but with the urgency they demand?
Last week we published a new paper, Can Africa Be A Manufacturing Destination?, that highlights the persistence of high labor costs in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This led to a lively debate on Twitter, initiated by Chris Blattman at the University of Chicago.
CGD, in partnership with the World Bank Group, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Omidyar Network, is delighted to host Nandan Nilekani, the founding chairman of UIDAI (Aadhaar), the unique identification system of India, which has enrolled more than a billion people. Nilekani will speak on “Societal Platforms: A Cambrian Approach to Sustainable Development”—how we can distill principles from the unique architecture of Aadhaar to develop new platforms, like EkStep, that can enable people to access an increasingly wide array of transformative services.
More than a billion Indian residents now have a biometric digital identity: Aadhaar. Its use across various sectors is increasing rapidly. The State of Aadhaar Report 2016-17 aims to provide a comprehensive overview of Aadhaar’s technological and operational architecture, legal and governance framework, uses in financial inclusion and social protection, and emerging applications in other sectors. Given the large scale and complicated nature of Aadhaar and its uses, the purpose of this report is to provide a holistic picture of the Aadhaar landscape over the last decade, to encourage evidence-informed discourse and decision making in the public and private sectors, and to spur future policy-relevant research projects.
Many developing countries are using digital technology to reform public service delivery. The convergence of financial inclusion, mobile networks and digital ID is transforming the way governments deliver public services and citizens access entitlements, including public subsidies. Are these reforms working? How are beneficiaries coping with the changes? Do they think they are better off than before?
The informal sector is a major source of economic activity and job opportunities in poor countries as well as emerging economies. In sub-Saharan Africa, the size of the informal sector is estimated to employ over 70 percent of the population. Why do businesses remain informal? What gains in productivity or profitability do they forego by as a result of that choice?
The new World Bank Group Strategy posted this week for discussion by the Development Committee, the ministerial-level forum that oversees the World Bank and the IMF, provides a solid analytical foundation for what has so far been a messy and disjointed re-organization effort. The release of the paper coincided with a speech by bank president Jim Kim that covered much of the same ground, but the strategy paper digs deeper. For those of us who believe that the World Bank has a crucial role to play in addressing the problems of the 21st Century, there is much to applaud.
This paper surveys the arguments for and against cash-transfer programs in resource-rich states, discusses some of the new biometric identification technologies, and reaches preliminary conclusions about their potentially very large benefits for developing countries.
Biometric identification is spreading rapidly across the developing world, where it is helping to close the “identification gap” that separates poor countries from rich ones. India’s Unique Identification (UID) project offers important lessons for other countries.
Attention presidential transition teams: the Rethinking US Development Policy team at the Center for Global Development strongly urges you to include these three big ideas in your first year budget submission to Congress and pursue these three smart reforms during your first year.
The biometrics revolution has allowed more countries to create strong ID systems for their citizens. These systems have mostly relied on fingerprinting, but with the advent of low-cost, highly effective iris readers this is about to change.