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International development experts share their ideas on how wealthy countries can promote prosperity in developing countries. Follow at

Jan 11, 2011

In developed countries, official identification systems are a fact of life, providing the foundation for a myriad of transactions including elections, pension payments, and the legal system. Without functional ID systems, citizens of many developing countries miss out on the benefits of official identification. On this week’s Wonkcast, I am joined by CGD senior fellow Alan Gelb who has been researching the potential for new biometric technology, such as computerized finger printing and iris scans, to help poor countries leapfrog the long and complicated process of setting up ID systems.

In our conversation, Alan explains the depth of the problem in the developing world. “In most rich countries there are already identity systems that work more or less well,” he says. “In many poor countries, not only is there no consistent identity system but at least half of the people don’t have records of birth at all. They simply don’t exist."

Read a full show summary on the Wonkcast site: