Centre for Internet & Society

Biometric identity systems are being introduced around the world with a focus on promoting human development and social and economic inclusion, rather than previous goals of security. As a result, these systems being encouraged in developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

In this report, we identify the different external actors that influencing this “developmental” agenda. These range from philanthropic organisations, private companies, and technology vendors, to state and international institutions. Most notable among these is the World Bank, whose influence we investigated in the form of case studies of Nigeria and Kenya. We also explored the role played by the “success” of the Aadhaar programme in India on these new ID systems. A key characteristic of the growing “digital identity for development” trend is the consolidation of different databases that record beneficiary data for government programmes into one unified platform, accessed by a unique biometric ID. This “Aadhaar model” has emerged as a default model to be adopted in developing countries, with little concern for the risks it introduces. Read and download the full report here.

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