There may be no single factor that affects a person’s ability to share in the gains of global development as much as having a reliable identification (ID). Identity unlocks formal services as diverse as voting, financial account ownership, loan applications, business registration, land titling, and school enrollment. Robust identity systems can also curb illegal border crossings and fraudulent financial transactions while guarding against human trafficking and child marriage.

Digitization of ID systems, using a variety of technologies, offers numerous benefits to individuals and institutions. Thoughtful design choices, deliberate approaches for relevant data collection and management, and effective rollout all contribute to ensuring that potential harms of digital IDs are minimized and the benefits are truly realized. The example below of Joy’s journey helps to illustrate how these pieces fit together. By becoming aware of these systems and tradeoffs, the development community can be a responsible and effective steward of this technology.