pangestu1_NOAH SEELAMAFP via Getty Images_indiadigitalIDthumbprint Noah Seelam/AFP via Getty Images

Harnessing the Power of Digital ID

As countries focus on “building back better” after the pandemic, they have a crucial opportunity to leapfrog to a more digital economy – and to do so responsibly. Whichever model they choose, governments can transform the lives of people everywhere by building digital ID systems designed to maximize privacy, inclusion, and trust.

WASHINGTON, DC – COVID-19 has tested the ability of governments to deliver financial and other forms of support to vulnerable people. Although 200 countries and territories have planned or implemented social-protection measures in response to the pandemic, many governments have struggled to identify informal workers who are not covered by existing welfare programs or social-security schemes for formal-sector employees. Social-distancing rules and quarantines have made it even more challenging to help those in need.

But in some countries, digital ID systems have enabled the authorities to identify populations reliably and remotely, and to make emergency cash transfers to vulnerable groups – such as women and girls, the poor, informal and migrant workers, people living in remote areas, and refugees.

For example, a digital ID system allowed Chile rapidly to pre-enroll millions of new beneficiaries in social programs and enabled people to check and, if necessary, appeal their support status online. In Thailand, where more than 28 million people applied for a new benefit for informal workers affected by the pandemic, the government was able to filter out those who would receive assistance from other schemes. And the Indian authorities recently were able to make quick payments under a financial-inclusion program to more than 200 million women as a result of improved processes that included linking an individual’s account to their digital ID.

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