ID Enabled Social Protection Delivery Platform for Inclusive Development
By Thampy Koshy, Senior Partner, Ernst & Young
“Leaving no one behind” is the pledge by the international community which forms one of the core pillars of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Agenda. This commitment requires that every deserving resident can access the diverse social protection measures offered in an efficient and timely fashion with no/ limited leakage or fraud. This is possible only if there are systems and processes in place to identify every beneficiary uniquely and to establish unambiguous and efficient process flow to track the receipt of services by each beneficiary. The absence of such streamlined processes in many developing countries poses a serious challenge with respect to inclusion and leakage. The world bank study on Burkina Faso given in the box is a typical example of the situation in many developing countries across the world.
There is an acceptance across governments, developmental agencies and civil society that Digital Foundational ID supported by strong and robust policies is the foundation to accomplish the above vision. In line with this, many countries have established or are in the process of establishing Digital Foundational ID. Many of these counties have also initiated digitalising the social protection schemes often in silos leading to duplication in investment and varying representation of truth. An integration between the Digital Foundational ID and social protection delivery systems is the next step in enabling seamless and efficient benefit delivery to improve the living standards of the vulnerable residents so that no one is left behind.
Burkina Faso is a low-income, landlocked country in West Africa. It has experienced sustained economic growth over the past few years - economic growth rose to 6.8% in 2018, against 6.3% in 2017  - but this growth has not benefited the majority of Burkinabe. Although the poverty headcount ratio has declined, the absolute number of poor has increased, and extreme poverty is rampant in rural areas. The nation is one of the least developed in the world. Overall, social protection expenditure in Burkina Faso has increased at a steady pace. Expenditure on social safety nets increased from 0.3 percent of GDP in 2005 to 2.3 percent in 2015. This increase indicates a growing Government appetite for finding more effective methods of protecting the poor. Burkina Faso outspends other sub-Saharan countries on social safety nets relative to GDP, but challenges remain - social safety net coverage is not in line with poverty, with only 2.6 percent of the entire population benefitting, mainly targeting beneficiaries on a geographical basis. The fourth-richest quintile benefits more from all safety nets than does the absolute poorest quintile and the largest concentration of beneficiaries of cash transfers (34.7 percent) reside in the wealthier Central region, with only a small percent reaching the poorest regions .
The example of Burkina Faso highlights the gap between the current social protection efforts and the potential for equitable progress if resources do not fail to reach the poor and marginalised segment of the society. This is true for most of the other countries in the African continent. Only 17.8 per cent of the population are covered by at least one cash social protection benefit program in Africa. Regional variations are large, with coverage ranging from 48 per cent in South Africa to below 10 per cent in several West African countries. Despite greater efforts to invest in non- contributory cash benefits, only 9.5 per cent of vulnerable  populations in Africa receive them . In fact, according to the World Social Protection Report 2017-19, over 80% of the population in Africa has no social protection .
There is a need for better targeting and an integrated approach to address this socio- economic challenge. Interventions must be aligned with areas that suffer from high poverty rates and low coverage.
A joint 2013 note  by the World Bank and UNICEF spells out that a systemic approach to data and information management for social protection can provide ‘a coordinated and harmonized response to the multidimensional vulnerabilities of individuals across a life-cycle’ — one that focuses on ‘exploiting interactions across programs and is mindful of establishing complementary incentives across programs’.
The first step in this as referred earlier would be to harness the ‘Digital Foundational ID’ system in the country to identify the residents and assess their needs.
A unique common identifier enables cross-linking (scheme/program) registers to rationalize multiple social programs. Digital Foundational ID systems help to serve the prime objective of implementing a social program - deliver the program benefits (goods, services, cash) to the eligible beneficiaries. Digital Foundational ID is a robust tool to serve the following goals :
Ensure uniqueness (1: n)
Enable Authentication (1:1)
Link databases of schemes and programs
Backed by a strong Digital Foundational ID system, an empathetic, technology led one stop integrated system capable of harmonizing and integrating the delivery systems used across multiple social protection programs will serve as a holistic solution to address the challenges being faced in the delivery of benefits to the deserving residents.
The aim of the platform is to enhance the capacity of the government to better tackle the challenges in an organic fashion considering the ground realities and differential maturity of diverse programs. In this regard, there are certain principles that that should drive the solution design.
User-centricity: The platform should be easy-to-use for all stakeholders concerned.
Progressive Realization of Social Rights: The platform shall facilitate progressive inclusion of new people or more benefits to those already in the system.
Non-discrimination: The platform shall facilitate access to the poor and vulnerable groups of society who are otherwise often excluded.
Transparency and Access to Information: Role of the platform, information requirements, application processes and use of information collected shall be clearly defined.
Design for Inclusion: The platform shall be designed on the principle of minimalism that is limited number of demographic and socio-economic attributes are collected per the requirement to avoid exclusion of any deserving residents.
Data Privacy: The platform should ensure that data is collected and used only for the specific purpose and time as agreed to the user.
Data Security: Appropriate technology and adequate measures to prevent unauthorized access to data should be ensured.
Consent Management: The platform shall ensure privacy of resident data by clearly defining what data is collected, its permissible uses, and ensuring that data is not shared with other entities without prior permission and consent.
Openness, Vendor Neutrality and Standards-based Interoperability: Ensuring vendor neutrality and openness are crucial factors that enable flexibility, continuous evolution and avoid vendor-lock ins.
Modularity: A modular design which provides flexibility for diverse service providers in adopting/ using relevant components based on their requirements.
Design for Scale: As the platform adoption increases with time, the volume of data to be managed will increase exponentially. The platform architecture should provide technology and process components to enable scaling.
Key components of the platform
The platform will have master registry of residents/ beneficiaries enabling a single source of truth for various programs. This social registry may be established through a fresh round of en-masse registrations when the existing databases are not robust enough. In other cases, the platform will leverage information from different existing sub-registries (national, program-level) into a social registry that will consolidate and organize relevant data pertaining to all registered/potential beneficiaries and schemes. It is based on this social registry that the platform can enable end-to-end program lifecycle activities.
The platform will enable easy onboarding of schemes – creating the scheme’s profile, defining the entitlement criteria and making updates as required. Thus, it becomes easy for scheme owners to target and enroll the intended residents, with provisions for beneficiaries to manage and update their profiles.
The platform will prevent fraud and leakages by managing disbursements and payments as a common service.
The platform can provide for common functionality for managing feedback/complaints from both internal as well as external stakeholders.
The platform can have common analytics engine to derive insights making use of data across the programs and schemes to facilitate better decision making.
The front-end application modules manage specific functions (e.g. registering beneficiaries, managing beneficiaries and their grievances) while data exchanges between the platform and external systems will be facilitated via a standards-based data exchange.
Key benefits of the platform
Leverage existing ID systems in the country as a foundation in data and system-based harmonization efforts
Adopt a standards-based national data exchange to facilitate system to system interactions
Single source of truth through well-defined mechanism for timely update of various data elements
Increase access (via various channels) to information and services to all relevant stakeholders
Provide common services that can be used across different schemes while also supporting the service delivery autonomy of the different departments/ ministries
Enable transparency and traceability via service monitoring mechanisms as well as provision of multiple avenues for beneficiary appeals
Enable better coordination among all relevant stakeholders and thereby improve efficiency in delivering social protection benefits
It will support distribution of resources based on objective and comparable information
Major benefits are summarised in the figure below.
Different countries are in different stages of maturity and advancement with respect to their ID systems, technology, infrastructure, governance and legal environment. The platform by virtue of its modular design can be tailored to address the specific, immediate and agreed upon needs of each country and can evolve over period of time.
Countries can broadly be classified into three categories based on the maturity of their ID system integrations :
Advanced: Digital ID system with majority of the features characterizing a high level of integration.
Intermediate: Measurable steps taken to develop a digital ID system but require significant improvements to ensure the system is scalable and can be integrated with existing disparate registries.
Greenfield: Rudimentary or no registry integration, either directly, through interchanges.
In case of greenfield countries, it is likely that no public-facing capability exists. A ‘greenfield’ country can develop the social delivery platform and ID system in parallel and provide for the progressive integration amongst the two platforms. The integration process necessitates that both the provider(s) and the consumer(s) of information come to an agreement on what, and how, information is integrated/shared. ‘Intermediate’ countries will aim to improve integration of their registries while also taking into consideration development of their Digital Foundational ID systems. An ‘advanced’ country will be in a capable position to move ahead with adoption of an integrated platform.
The above discussion details a natural roadmap for developing countries for a speedy transformation to a digital economy that enables efficient and inclusive service delivery across all sections of the society thus bridging the digital divide.
World Bank Identification for Development (ID4D) Integration Approach - https://www.planetbiometrics.com/creo_files/upload/default/ID4D.pdf