Digital Identification in Africa: Reforms, Evidence, and Opportunities

Hosted by:
to (9:00 to 11:30am EST)
Live via Zoom
Hand providing thumbprint for biometric identification card
Thumbprint for biometric identification card
Photo: AUN UN IST PHOTO / Tobin Jones

An estimated 494 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have no form of legal identification. In response, policymakers across sub-Saharan Africa are increasingly investing in a particular digital technology with transformative potential—biometric digital identification (ID) systems. Digitizing ID systems has the potential to increase access to universally valid proof of identity, which is often essential for citizens to access basic government services and lead a dignified life. However, these systems could also lead to exclusion or an undermining of privacy. Despite the variety of transformative impacts that digital IDs can have, there is little rigorous evidence on how they can best be leveraged. 

J-PAL Africa is hosting a convening of top researchers and policymakers, focused on digital identification in sub-Saharan Africa. During this convening, speakers will discuss relevant policy reforms in sub-Saharan Africa, existing evidence, and opportunities for policy-relevant research on digital identification. A Q&A session will follow the speakers' presentations and will serve as an opportunity for practitioners, researchers, and civil society members in the audience to join the conversation. 

Speakers and agenda

Opening remarks and introduction

  • Jenny Aker (Professor of Development Economics, Tufts University; Co-Chair, DigiFI Africa Initiative)

Session 1: Policy 

  • Hadiza Ali Dagabana (General Manager, National Identity Management Commission in Nigeria)
  • Tina George Karippacheril (Senior Public Sector Specialist and Regional Task Team Leader, World Bank) and Julia Clark (Senior Economist, Identification for Development)
  • Tamara Cook (CEO, Financial Sector Deepening Kenya)

Session 2: Research 

  • Integrating Biometric Authentication in India's Welfare Programs – Sandip Sukhtankar (Associate Professor of Economics, University of Virginia)
  • Incorporating National Identification Data into Government Systems – Jessica Goldberg (Associate Professor of Economics, University of Maryland)  
  • Leveraging Digital Identification to Nudge Informal Pension Contributions in Ghana – Edward Asiedu (Lecturer, University of Ghana Business School)

Q & A 

Closing remarks and synthesis

  • Tavneet Suri (Associate Professor of Applied Economics, MIT; Co-Scientific Director, J-PAL Africa; Co-Chair, J-PAL's Agriculture sector; Co-Chair, DigiFI Africa Initiative) 

*Optional* Session 3: Funding Opportunities for African Scholars

  • Nidhi Parekh (Director, DigiFI Africa Initiative)

Webinar recording