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Technological advances are a driving force for development. But policy choices determine who benefits. CGD focuses on three key questions around innovation, growth, and inequality: How can governments use existing technologies to deliver services more effectively to citizens? How can international institutions help create and spread new technologies to tackle shared problems like climate change and pandemics? And how can policymakers ensure advances in artificial intelligence, automation, and communications bring shared benefits and not greater global inequality?
“This important book sets a sensible and specific way forward. It should be read by all involved in economic development and international action on climate change.”
—Lord Nicholas Stern, author of the Stern Review
Being able to prove who you are is a powerful tool that can serve as a basis for exercising rights like voting, accessing financial services and receiving transfers, and reducing fraud. Yet billions of people in the developing world lack a means to officially identify themselves. In this week’s Wonkcast, Alan Gelb and Julia Clark draw from their ongoing research on biometric technology and development to explain how developing country governments and donors can tap advances in biometrics to help empower poor people.
India’s Universal ID program seeks to provide a unique identity to all 1.2
billion residents. Its
successes and potential failures will have far-reaching implications for other
developing countries looking to create national identity systems.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Less than a month until the anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the Haitian capital, 1.3 million still live in tents, clean water remains an issue with cholera rapidly spreading, and millions of cubic meters of debris litter the streets, hampering rebuilding efforts. But Haiti was hardly in great shape before the earthquake. Despite years of assistance, 80% of its population was living under the poverty line, 2 out of 3 Haitians did not have a formal job, and infrastructure was minimal.