Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Publications

 

September 13, 2019

Building on Digital ID for Inclusive Services: Lessons from India

India has emerged as a leader in building on its biometric digital ID to reform service and program delivery. It moved quickly to consolidate the rollout of Aadhaar, and then to embed the unique Aadhaar number into program databases. A range of applications, including digital signature and payments, was then constructed on top of the Aadhaar foundation (the India Stack). Together with partners, the Center for Global Development is analyzing the effects of Aadhaar-based reforms. The three programs we discuss below highlight achievements as well as challenges that need to be overcome for greater efficiency and inclusion.

Cover of Policy Paper 149
July 11, 2019

Fuel Subsidy Reform and Green Taxes: Can Digital Technologies Improve State Capacity and Effectiveness?

Reforming inefficient and inequitable energy subsidies continues to be an important priority for policymakers as does instituting “green taxes” to reduce carbon emissions. The paper outlines how the use of digital technology can help accomplishing those reforms, drawing on four country cases. The technology is only a mechanism; it does not, in itself, create the political drive and constituency to push reform forward.

map of Krishna
November 7, 2018

Digital Governance: Is Krishna a Glimpse of the Future?

Earlier this year we undertook a field study of Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh (AP), together with collaborators from Microsave, to understand the experience and perceptions around digital governance reforms. Our three surveys—of households, ration shop owners, and bank correspondents—find widespread support for digital governance reforms, including the use of Aadhaar authentication to receive food rations through the public distribution system (PDS) and social pensions through the panchayat, as well as for digital land records. However, we also find some areas for improvement. 

Cover of Working Paper 489
July 10, 2018

Digital Governance in Developing Countries: Beneficiary Experience and Perceptions of System Reform in Rajasthan, India - Working Paper 489

India is at the forefront of the use of digital technology to transform the way in which citizens interact with states. This paper provides a picture of the perceived impact of digitization reforms in Rajasthan, based on a survey of beneficiaries of several benefit programs. We find that, on balance, the reforms appear to have improved perceptions of service delivery despite some difficulties during the digitization process and the possibility that there could have been some degree of exclusion.

Cover of Policy Paper 114
December 21, 2017

Fuel Subsidy Reform in Developing Countries: Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG Cooking Gas Subsidy in India

India’s reform of household subsidies for the purchase of LPG cooking gas stands out for a several reasons. The paper provides a detailed picture of the reform through its various stages, including how the process was conceptualized, coordinated, and implemented. It analyzes how such a reform must be able to adapt to concerns as they arise and to new information, how digital technology was used and how it is possible to use a voluntary self-targeting “nudge” to defuse potential resistance to income-based targeting.

Neeraj Mittal , Anit Mukherjee and Alan Gelb
Aadhaar survey respondents give a show of hands when discussing issues with receiving rations
December 12, 2017

What a New Survey of Aadhaar Users Can Tell Us About Digital Reforms: Initial Insights from Rajasthan

India’s Aadhaar biometric identification scheme has registered over 1.1 billion people, including almost all adults in the country and over 15 percent of the global population. Of course, initiatives of this scale cannot escape controversy. What the debate has so far lacked, however, is data. We set out to help fill that gap with a survey focused on a digital governance initiative in the state of Rajasthan.

Cover of Working Paper 466
October 15, 2017

Can Africa Be a Manufacturing Destination? Labor Costs in Comparative Perspective - Working Paper 466

Our central question is whether African countries can break into global manufacturing in a substantial way. Our results suggest that for any given level of GDP, labor is more costly for firms that are located in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, we also find that there are a few countries in Africa that, on a labor cost basis, may be potential candidates for manufacturing—Ethiopia in particular stands out.

April 25, 2017

A Note on the Informal Sector

This work analyzes fresh data made available by updated, more comprehensive Enterprise Surveys of formal firms of various sizes and, importantly, of informal firms. It concentrates on five countries (the DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Myanmar, and Rwanda) to provide more fine-grained insights into differences in characteristics and productivity levels between formal and informal firms or different sizes in different developing countries.

Shopping Mall Escalators
August 19, 2016

Should Countries Be More Like Shopping Malls? A Proposal for Service Performance Guarantees

Many developing countries have made progress in political openness and economic management but still struggle to attract private sector investments. Potential investors to these countries have many concerns that can broadly be classified into high costs and high actual or perceived risks. Drawing on insights from existing guarantees offered by bilateral development agencies, national governments, utility companies, and even shopping malls, we suggest that Service Performance Guarantees can be part of the solution, offering investing firms the opportunity to purchase insurance against a wider range of risks than is currently possible and establishing a partnership of donors and recipient governments, accountable to their investor clients.

Alan Gelb , Vijaya Ramachandran , Matt Juden and Alice Rossignol
Biometric Elections
August 17, 2016

Biometric Elections in Poor Countries: Wasteful or a Worthwhile Investment? - Working Paper 435

Elections have emerged as a leading area for the application of biometric technology in developing countries, despite its high costs and uncertainty over its effectiveness. This paper finds that a reduction in the probability of post-election violence by only a few percentage points could offset the cost of the technology. However, this is possible only in particular situations.

March 22, 2016

Financial Regulations for Improving Financial Inclusion (brief)

As recently as 2011, only 42 percent of adult Kenyans had a financial account of any kind; by 2014, according to the Global Findex, database that number had risen to 75 percent. In sub-Saharan Africa, the share of adults with financial accounts rose by nearly half over the same period. Many other developing countries have also recorded gains in access to basic financial services. Much of this progress is being facilitated by the digital revolution of recent decades, which has led to the emergence of new financial services and new delivery channels.

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