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Deeply Talks: Are Biometric ID Systems Good for Women?

In our second episode of Deeply Talks this year, we discuss the role national ID systems play in advancing financial inclusion for women, featuring insights from three researchers who have examined the issue in depth.

Written by Megan Clement, Jihii Jolly Published on Read time Approx. 1 minutes
An Indian bank employee explains to visitors about account transactions from a mobile phone with a Aadhaar or Unique Identification (UID) card during a Digi Dhan Mela held to promote digital payment, in Hyderabad on January 18, 2017. Noah Seelam/AFP via Getty Images

Around the world, 42 percent of women do not have access to their own bank account, often because they don’t have the necessary identification documents to open one, because they don’t have the minimum amount of money required to do so or because it’s too difficult for them to physically get to a bank.

The push to extend banking and credit services to underserved populations, including women, is known as financial inclusion. As more developing countries embrace national identification databases, the potential to sign up more people for accounts is growing.

But digital programs such as India’s Aadhaar system are not without controversy, raising questions about privacy and the efficacy of using ID databases to provide essential services. Earlier this year, Aadhaar was subject to a significant data leak, and an upcoming Supreme Court verdict on the system’s constitutional basis could have significant consequences for financial inclusion programs across the country.

In this episode of Deeply Talks, we discuss the role national ID systems can play in advancing financial inclusion for women, as well as the potential pitfalls.

In the first segment, the Center for Global Development’s Alan Gelb – author of Identification Revolution: Can Digital ID be Harnessed for Development? – explains how biometric ID systems work and the factors that influence how inclusive they are for women.

In the second segment, Atika Kemal, researcher at Anglia Ruskin University, and Debdatta Saha, assistant professor at South Asian University, discuss their research in Pakistan and India on ID-linked financial inclusion programs for women.

Listen to the discussion here:

Read our recent op-eds on the debate here:

Deeply Talks is a regular feature, bringing together our network of readers and expert contributors to examine the latest developments on issues affecting women and girls in the developing world. To be notified of future Deeply Talks, make sure you are signed up to the Women’s Advancement Deeply newsletter.

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