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World Bank aims to secure identification for all to underpin social protection programmes

The World Bank Group’s Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative has launched a High Level Advisory Council in a bid to secure robust and inclusive digital identification systems as a sustainable development priority.

Over 1.1 billion people in the world, nearly 1 in 7 individuals, are unable to prove their identity and so their access to vital services and social protection is restricted, it said, highlighting that more than a third are children who are unregistered.

The World Bank said that identification for all could potentially advance many key elements of the Sustainable Development Goals, including social protection, women and girls’ empowerment, financial inclusion, governance, healthcare, digital development, and humanitarian assistance. In addition to reducing a basic barrier to exercising rights and accessing services, it added, digital identification can also improve public administration and empower individuals with agency over their personal data.

At this inaugural meeting of the ID4D High Level Advisory Council — co-chaired by World Bank Group Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva and United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed — thought leaders from across the public and private sectors discussed the opportunities, challenges and emerging trends that countries face. As the first of such a group assembled on this agenda, the Council members said that they could serve as ambassadors to influence the approaches of countries, development and humanitarian agencies and the private sector.

The programme, ID4D, aims to help countries analyse problems, design solutions, and implement new systems to increase the number of people with official identification and the development impact of the overall identification system. The World Bank currently has digital identification and civil registration projects in over a dozen countries worth over US$500 million. 

 “We are at an exciting point of technology, collaboration and commitment converging to make unprecedented improvements in the lives of the 1.1 billion people living without identification, especially in vulnerable and forcibly-displaced populations,” said Georgieva. “We can use the global reach of the ID4D High Level Advisory Council to harness digital identification and maximize its transformational potential for the benefit of people who currently are not being served because they cannot be seen or heard.”

UN Deputy-Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said: “Digital identification can play an important role in achieving the sustainable development goals. It can enable the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people to gain access to critical services, from education to healthcare and financing, while also advancing their legal and political rights. We look to this advisory council to help ensure that no one is left behind in the digital age.”

The members of the ID4D High Level Advisory Council also include Toomas Hendrik Illves, former President of Estonia (Estonia offers a first of its kind e-Residency, a government-issued digital ID available to anyone in the world); Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Infosys and Founding Chairman of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI); Eric Jing, CEO of Ant Financial, which operates Alipay (Ant Financial recently launched a facial-recognition payments technology for commercial use); Carolina Trivelli, former Minister of Development and Social Inclusion, Peru and Chairman of Pagos Digitales Peruanos; Dr. Benno Ndulu, Governor, Bank of Tanzania; Mo Ibrahim, Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and founder of Celtel; and Iqbal Quadir, founder of the Legatum Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and of Grameenphone.