CGD and Support to the Field of Biometric Identification for Development


This case study is one of five produced as part of an external assessment undertaken between 2020-2022 to examine how CGD contributed to influence and impact in some of its areas of work. The case studies detail five notable initiatives from CGD’s first 20 years. This external assessment was led by Benjamin Soskis of the Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy and overseen by Amanda Glassman with coordination and support from Brin Datema in consultation with CGD president Masood Ahmed. Each case study was researched and authored by independent consultants to CGD. The full collection of case studies and related materials is available here.

For millennia, governments have sought to identify those who live in their territories for purposes ranging from tax collection to election administration to national security. Still, many countries have lacked a central system of registration that joins these different uses together. In the last decades, digital technologies have transformed the mechanisms of identification, and governments have increasingly applied identification tools to development-related areas, such as banking and finance, public payroll management, social transfers and pensions, and health care.

This case study examines the role CGD has played in that shift. It assesses CGD’s impact and influence on identification for development as a coherent and unified development field, as opposed to a collection of isolated country-level initiatives. It pays particular attention to the impact of some key reports published by CGD, especially those co-written by CGD senior fellow Alan Gelb, and to CGD’s contributions to the establishment and development of the World Bank’s Identification for Development initiative, which has become the leading global institution for the promotion of best practices associated with and technical assistance related to ID for development.

Rights & Permissions

You may use and disseminate CGD’s publications under these conditions.