Identification for Development


"We acknowledge the scale of the public health crisis arising from deaths and injuries on the roads of developing and emerging countries... and recognize that a systematic, multisectoral response is required to address this global crisis."

- Joint Statement by Seven Development Banks, 2011

From Advocacy to Implementation

About the Program

Today, there are an estimated 1.5 billion people who do not have an official, government issued and recognized document as proof of their legal identity. The majority of these people live in Asia and Africa and a disproportionate number are women and children.

To tackle this basic development challenge, the World Bank Group launched the Identification for Development Initiative (ID4D) in 2014. The initiative will facilitate access to services and rights for all by supporting progress toward identification systems using 21st century solutions.

ID4D aims to bring global knowledge and expertise to governments and authorities across multiple countries and sectors. The initiative not only sits at the core of the World Bank Group’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity, but it also aims to help countries reach the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goal target of “providing legal identity for all, including birth registration, by 2030”.

Identity to Access Basic Services

Identification is core to development because it is a key enabler for:

  • Financial Inclusion: Accessible, secure, and verifiable ID systems can help expand the use of financial services by approximately 375 million unbanked adults in developing countries.
  • Gender Equality: Women who are equipped with proof of legal identity can better assert their rights and have greater say in household decisions.
  • Access to Health Services: Identifying beneficiaries of health services allows countries to target and monitor health interventions.
  • Social Safety Net: Precise targeting and robust identification of beneficiaries can help bring social assistance programs to over 875 million people living in extreme poverty.
  • Improved Governance: Many country governments link civil servant databases to national identification registers to verify who is still on the rolls, check absenteeism and overall increase the accountability of government institutions and curb fraud and corruption in these places.

 Multisectoral Approach

To assist client countries in implementing the ID4D vision, the World Bank is leveraging its own financial resources and technical expertise. This initiative is built upon substantial work that has preceded this effort—especially several complementary initiatives led by World Bank teams in collaboration with external partners and client counterparts: most notably, the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) Scaling Up Plan, the Digital ID for Africa initiative, the Universal Access by 2020 agenda and the Social Protection Assessments (SPA) interagency collaboration. ID4D’s strategic framework sets out to help key stakeholders share a common understanding of the benefits, challenges, risks, and proposed processes involved in rolling out the ID4D agenda. 

Strong identification systems can have significant development impact. There is evidence of this in a number of developing countries. In Pakistan, for instance, the government used its national identification database to provide flood relief payments to 1.5 million families. In Bangladesh, the national identification database is used by both the public and private sector, including the National Board of Revenue, the Bangladesh Bank, and all six mobile operators, to authenticate the identity of applicants registering for their services. 

For low- and middle-income countries looking to establish or improve identification systems, knowing what works and why is key. Research on best practices enables governments to choose the right approach for their countries. For instance, some countries such as Morocco plan to establish a national population register that will draw on the country’s existing databases to create a unified register with a unique identifying number for each registered individual. Other countries such as India have leapfrogged over traditional paper-based systems and established a biometric identification system. Some countries have found that linking benefits to possession of ID cards increases enrollment in the ID database—the Benazir Income Support Program (a cash transfer program) in Pakistan made possession of the National ID card a prerequisite for enrolment which acted as an incentive for the poorest of the poor to obtain NID cards. 

With growing global interest in this area, governments, development organizations and thinktanks are looking to analyze, discuss, and design approaches to identification for development.

To reach the ambitious goal of “making everyone count” and enabling access to services and rights for all through modern identification systems, the ID4D initiative will coordinate research, encourage shared approaches, and reach a global consensus on the way forward.

The ID4D initiative engages in three main focus areas:

  1. Thought Leadership
  2. Global Convening
  3. Country and Regional Engagement

1. Thought Leadership

ID4D aims to provide policy planners, development organizations, think tanks and foundations with a common platform where they can share learning and knowledge on identification and  advance their understanding of the topic. The objective is to help achieve consensus on the use of ID systems and best practices. 

Analytical pieces include topics such as identification systems architecture and business models, digital ID toolkits, global datasets, role of private sector and PPP models, and women and identification.

ID4D plans to facilitate new research in areas such as:

  • The role of identification in the global refugee crisis;
  • The impact of identification on gender equality, financial inclusion and effective targeting of pro poor programs;
  • Assessments of country and regional approaches to identification systems;
  • And case studies on best practices in identification systems from India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere.

2. Global Convening

Most countries and regions want to establish credible and scalable identification systems, easily recognized and respected both within and outside their borders. For this to happen, there must be global agreement on principles, minimum standards, and international legal rules for identity management.

To reach this goal, ID4D will engage with standard setting bodies, private sector associations such as GSMA and SIA, UN agencies, private foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Omidyar, financial sector players and others to develop an inclusive, multi-stakeholder dialogue and consultation process. 

Joint discussion papers, consultative meetings, annual and bi-annual events (such as the World Bank Annual and Spring Meetings, the Mobile World Congress, and ID4Africa regional events) can bring together interested partners to share knowledge and ensure cohesive action and understanding across the many agencies and organizations interested in this agenda.

3. Country and Regional Engagement

There is no single approach to improving an identification system. What succeeds in one country may fail in another. Countries and regions wanting to upgrade or scale up their identification system should first examine:

1. Legal and regulatory framework for civil registration and identification,

2. Accessibility: Barriers and obstacles to timely and universal registration

3. Institutional and administrative robustness,

4. Use and management of technology, and

5. Interoperability and interconnectivity of the legal and functional registries.

ID4D performs country assessments and provides technical assistance and lending. Thirty country assessments have been completed over the past year. Technical assistance or lending have been provided to about 12 of these countries. 

While ID4D is advancing single-country engagements, it also aims to explore regional approaches to ensure that identification systems are developed in an integrated, interoperable manner to enable improved regional cooperation and cross-border integration. In doing so, ID4D is building on the experience and lessons of the European Community and Mercosur.


The ID4D initiative will collaborate with development partners, private sector and governments to provide unified technical and financial support to low- and middle-income countries participating in this effort. At present, ID4D is developing a partnership platform and catalyzing multidonor funds to accelerate the engagement with country clients, incubate new approaches, and advance global knowledge.