Digital Identification and Finance Initiative in Africa (DigiFI Africa)

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The Digital Identification and Finance Initiative in Africa (DigiFI) aims to generate rigorous evidence on how African governments, private companies, and NGOs can leverage digital payments and identification systems to improve lives through better public service delivery, governance, and financial inclusion. To achieve this vision, DigiFI plans to support governments and other implementers to monitor and evaluate relevant reforms.

DigiFI Announcements 

[NEW] Sign up to our DigiFI Africa newsletter: j-p.al/newsletter-signup

[NEW] General DigiFI Off-cycle Funding for Fall 2020

DigiFI is accepting off-cycle proposals during Fall 2020. Applications are open on a rolling basis and will be reviewed every few weeks. Find further details on our Request for Proposals page. 

DigiFI will continue accepting off-cycle proposals for COVID-19 off-cycle research projects (cap of $250,000 per project) that will rapidly respond to policy needs in times of COVID-19 and/or make large contributions to informing policy responses to crises. Applications are open on a rolling basis and will be reviewed every couple of weeks. If a quicker response is required, please write to us and we get back to you as soon as possible. More information on our Request for Proposals page. 

Overview

A growing number of African governments have begun pursuing the digitization of  payment systems, while others are switching to biometrically-authenticated national IDs which integrate access and delivery of key public services. Early research suggests there is opportunity across Africa for digital technologies to help reduce leakage in the delivery of public goods and services, to increase fiscal capacity, to reduce corruption, and, to boost the welfare of citizens, particularly marginalized groups. Yet, there remains a glaring lack of rigorous, peer-reviewed evidence on the overall impacts of these digital payments and ID systems. 

DigiFI Africa aims to fill this evidence gap by funding cutting edge research projects focused on the study of innovative government payment systems, and ID reforms. We expect the evidence produced by this initiative will inform governments on how best to design and implement reforms to maximize benefits to citizens and mitigate risks. 

The scope of funding aims to include projects across a range of possible interventions, including but not limited to:

  • How can digital ID systems assist with targeting and efficiency in public programs? Do digital ID systems assist or hinder in reaching marginalized populations?
  • How do digital IDs affect voter participation, the fairness of elections and electoral outcomes? Does increased enfranchisement affect policy decisions?
  • How can digital ID systems and digital payments assist in building incentive systems to motivate public servants?
  • Can expanding the formal economy increase the tax base through incentives and simplified processes introduced by digital payments and digital IDs?
  • What is the impact of digital ID and digital payment systems on market-level general equilibrium effects? What are their impacts on wages and employment? Are there impacts on occupational choice or migration?
  • Can digital ID systems encourage businesses to enter the formal sector? Do these reforms reduce entry costs to entrepreneurship and enable productive investment?
  • How do different privacy measures impact take-up of digital IDs?

Recognizing the importance of prompt and reliable information on the performance and impact of reforms, the initiative will take a two-pronged approach, funding:

  • Formative research that includes pilot and high-frequency monitoring systems to assess the status and health of payments and ID programs at various stages of reforms, and
  • Rigorous randomized evaluations to assess the impact of roll-outs of promising payment and ID reforms.

Key Facts

Office:
J-PAL Africa
Co-Chairs:
Status:
  • Research RFP: Closed
Eligibility:
Open to J-PAL affiliated professors, DigiFI invited researchers, resident African Scholars and non-resident African Scholars.

Funders

For Researchers

Request for Proposals

DigiFI Africa accepts proposals for the following categories: Proposal Development grants (up to $10,000), Pilot studies (up to $75,000), and Full-Scale RCTs (up to $400,000). DigiFI aims to run a call for proposals approximately every 6 months. We are currently accepting off-cycle proposals during Fall 2020. 

Opportunities

African Scholars

DigiFI provides research funding opportunities to resident and non-resident African Scholars.

Initiative Team

Board Members

Tavneet Suri
Jessica Goldberg
Jenny Aker
Sandip Sukhtankar
Anzetse Were
Seth Garz

Staff

Nidhi Parekh, Director of DigiFI

Gabriel Tourek, Postdoctoral Fellow

Kodjo Aflagah, Postdoctoral Fellow

Aimee Hare, Senior Policy Associate

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