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Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

India Leading the Way on Biometric ID—and Now Replacing Subsidies with Cash

The Washington Post reported yesterday that India will, starting Jan 1st in 51 districts, pay cash directly into the accounts of poor families as it begins unraveling its convoluted web of food, fuel and other subsidies. India’s been toying with this idea for a while, so it’s good news that it’ll finally kick-off in the New Year. Many others will be watching.

Pakistan’s “Pocket of Productivity”: Empowerment through Identification

This is a joint post with Julia Clark.

Pakistan’s ahead of the pack.

Why? It’s National Database and Registration Authority—NADRA, the agency in charge of national identification—recently announced that it will begin issuing identity cards to orphans with unknown parentage; those without birth certificates or other documentation. This move effectively ensures citizenship rights for children who would otherwise have been excluded under regulations that require proof of nationality and parental lineage to obtain an ID card.

Taxing Kenya’s M-Pesa Picks the Pockets of the Poor

Kenya has instituted a new tax that affects users of M-Pesa -- a widely popular phone-based money transfer service used by more than half of Kenya’s adult population. The new 10 percent excise duty on fees charged for money transfer services applies to mobile phone providers, banks, and other money transfer agencies. Operated by Safaricom, the largest mobile network operator in Kenya, M-Pesa accounts for the largest share of users of money transfer services. Users of M-Pesa products will therefore bear most of the impact of the tax.

“No One Gets Past a Raptor” The 2012 Biometrics Consortium Conference: Tampa

Even with global sales around $5 billion, the biometrics industry is surprisingly clubby.  Most participants at the 2012 Biometrics Consortium Conference I attended recently seemed to know each other.  Most were from the US, but some  came from Europe, and from India and other developing countries.  Their backgrounds were diverse:  academics, entrepreneurs, engineers, lawyers, police, security and military personnel. And, of course, sales departments!

Identification for Development, US Election Edition

This is a joint post with Julia Clark

On the surface, it’s hard to see how requiring a photo ID for elections could be problematic. What’s the big deal? Nearly everyone we know has at least one photo ID—a driver’s license, state ID, or passport. Plus, preventing double or illegitimate voting is a favorable goal in any democracy. Who could argue with a law that promises to protect electoral integrity?

Technology in the Tropics: a Visit to Bangalore

Bangalore in September. Beautiful weather, luscious gardens, and the din of metro construction. But most importantly (for our purposes, at least), Bangalore is headquarters to the world’s largest biometric identification project. Every 24 hours, the Unique Identification Authority of India’s data center performs 100 trillion matches to ensure that each of the day’s 1 million new enrollees is distinct from the 200 million people already identified. This number crunching will only increase as the program scales to cover India’s 1.2 billion people.

And Now, Digital Food (Will It Help the Poor?)

Last month Mastercard Worldwide and the World Food Program (WFP) announced a global partnership in “digital food”. The public-private partnership aims to harness Mastercard’s expertise in electronic payments to develop WFP’s electronic voucher programs. Can it work?

Clicks to Policy Bricks: Can Innovation Jumpstart Development Transformation?

I participated last week in a conversation about innovation and technology for development at the Brookings Blum Roundtable in Aspen. Amazing changes are happening out there that exploit new information technologies, improving the lives of the poor and vulnerable. But a big unanswered question for me is clicks to bricks (see #8 below: Are crowdsourcing and open access innovations being matched by innovations in making government accountable and delivering public services?) I am more convinced today that web-based innovations are helping poor people become their own change agents in making t

Coming Clean on Cookstoves

The Washington Post on Monday highlighted the latest results from a randomized study of a development intervention by the folks at MIT.   This time, the subject of the study was clean cookstoves.  As the Post noted, that’s timely because Hillary Clinton has been a strong advocate, backing the