EPAR Technical Report #306
Fri, 09/18/2015
Pierre Biscaye
C. Leigh Anderson
Travis Reynolds
Sarah Coney
Eugenia Ho
Brian Hutchinson
Mia Neidhardt

We review the status and characteristics of 48 national identity programs and initiatives in 43 developing countries, and evaluate how these programs are being connected to—or used for—service provision. The identity programs we review are mainly government-issued national IDs. However, we also review other types of national identity programs with links to various services including voter cards, passports, and two programs targeting the poor and the banking population. Following a brief review of the roles of identity systems in development and recent identity system trends, we present an overview of the 48 national identity programs, including technical features (such as whether physical identities incorporate an electronic component or are embedded with biometric features), implementation status, population enrollment strategies, and coverage. We next review evidence of implementation challenges around accountability, privacy, data management, enrollment, coverage, cost, and harmonization of identity programs. Finally, we present the functional applications of national identity programs, reporting how these programs are linked with services in finance, health, agriculture, elections, and other areas, and analyzing whether particular identity program characteristics are associated with functional applications.

This report was presented to the Digital Financial Services (DFS) Ecosystems Working Group of the International Telecommunications Union’s Focus Group on DFS (ITU FG-DFS) at their quarterly meeting in Kuala Lumpur on September 30, 2015. The review was published as a formal group technical report of the ITU FG-DFS.

We invite you to view our interactive data visualization which allows you to explore a portion of the data we collected and analyzed for this project.

Revised findings for the primary national identity card programs in 42 of the countries we reviewed (Ethiopia was removed as it does not currently have a national-level ID card program) were presented at the Myanmar Ministry of Labour, Immigration, and Population in Nay Pyi Taw from December 12-14, 2016 at a workshop with representatives from various Myanmar Ministries and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. The results were updated to reflect changes in certain countries' identity programs since August 2015. The presentations included an overview of the national ID card programs in the selected countries, and a review of the implementation challenges those countries faced. Read a blog post featuring EPAR's presentation of this work in Myanmar in December 2016.

Findings from an updated research brief focusing on the evidence of challenges that low- and middle-income countries have faced in implementing national identity programs were presented at the 2017 Data for Policy Conference in London on September 7, 2017. Read a blog post about the challenges of providing legal identity for all and the potential of digital identity programs to address some of these challenges.

Type of Research: 
Literature Review
Research Topic Category: 
Development Finance & Policy
Political Economy & Governance
Geographic focus: