Case Study

World Bank Case Study: Driving Digital Identity Education and Adoption

The Challenge: The World Bank’s Identification for Development (ID4D) Initiative helps “countries realize the transformational potential of digital identification systems.” While the policy benefits of national digital identification systems have been studied in-depth limited research and analysis had been done on the economic impact that identity systems can create in the private sector. 

The Outcome: As identity theory and platform implementation experts, OWI authored a report on behalf of the ID4D team on the Private Sector Economic Impacts for Identification Systems, offering original research and proprietary analysis. The report serves as a public resource for governments, private sector organizations, and others researching digital identity opportunities. It also serves as a foundation for additional research into the country-level impacts of implementing a digital identification system.  

A Deeper Look at How We Helped the World Bank Support Digital Identity Education and Adoption

An estimated one billion people around the world do not have official identification, according to the World Bank. Being able to prove who you are is easy to take for granted. Yet, identity is how people gain access to goods and services, from banking to education to healthcare. Digital systems that enable access to reliable, legal identification can empower the world’s poorest and most vulnerable to engage in the digital economy, promoting financial inclusion, health services, and social protection. 

Numerous governments are investing heavily in national digital identification systems, and as our world becomes increasingly connected, digital identity systems are becoming a critical element of national infrastructure and economic development. Yet, implementing digital identity systems for an entire population is a daunting task, to say the very least. The opportunity presented by digital identification systems is monumental but so are the challenges. 

As more countries embark on the road to digital identification, the World Bank is well-positioned to advance this digital development and to work with governments to ensure that these systems are inclusive and trusted. Through advisory services, public resources, and technical assistance, ID4D raises awareness for critical identity issues, underscoring identity’s role in digital development. 

Digital identity initiatives go hand-in-hand with digital development priorities, and for people that lack identification, digital identity offers opportunities to engage in the digital economy and critical public functions. However, the picture is bigger than just inclusion efforts. Having an ID is powerful for people; it’s also impactful for government and private sector organizations. It can help open up access, provide security and safety measures. 

The private sector lens is critical for digital identity assessment. Safe transactions require effective identity verification and authentication tools, often rooted in trusted government sources. Where government identity systems are immature, it can be more difficult for businesses to reliably onboard new customers, accurately assess risk, and prevent fraud. This dynamic can stunt economic growth across industries. When countries consider how to implement new digital identity platforms, the private sector should be a critical stakeholder in the conversation.

OWI focused on filling a gap in existing research, looking into the economic impact of national-level identity systems, specifically on the private sector. The result is a resource for governments, industry groups, organizations, and beyond to fruitfully engage on identity issues. This research complements and expands ID4D’s data and research on various tangents of identity verification, from authentication to privacy by design. 

“Digital identity initiatives go hand-in-hand with digital development priorities and the UN Sustainability Goals. The challenging research OWI pulled together is an important building block in creating a wealth of resources for any government to research and implement a national digital identity system.”  Vyjayanti Desai, Program Manager, ID4D 

OWI’s research included: 

  • A comprehensive, peer-reviewed report on the economic impacts of identity systems on the private sector
  • Proprietary interviews with global identity experts
  • 20+ country case studies, and 
  • A report summary launched at the World Bank’s inaugural High-Level Advisory Council meeting. 

Research on private-sector economic impacts from identity systems is a unique challenge for several reasons. In the private sector, comprehensive data sets are scarce. Private companies typically don’t monitor the fiscal impact of identity platform implementation, and the ups-and-downs of the private sector can be caused by a wide range of factors, not necessary one government implementation or initiative. This lack of available primary data created a challenge in conducting in-depth analysis.

To combat these challenges, we built a new analytical framework to assess cost savings and revenue generation opportunities that government identification systems can create for the private sector. Building on ID4D’s companion paper on public sector savings and revenue, our report highlighted five key features of identification systems that are most impactful for the private sector. We also leveraged our global network of identity experts for their expertise in active deployments of national-level digital identification systems. This approach resulted in over 20 unique case studies that provide critical insights and data.

Most importantly, this paper provided a jumping-off point for further research into the economic impacts of digital identification systems. We hope that this report will foster new dialogue and provide an emerging generation of policymakers with the tools they need to make identity work better around the world. We’re proud to help raise awareness and contribute to the growing body of identity research that will make a larger impact in the development community. 

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