Citizens and States: How Can Digital ID and Payments Improve State Capacity and Effectiveness?

The potential for digital technology to help reform citizen–state interactions

Governments around the world are moving to harness the power of digital technologies to improve their capacity to serve people. Many public services are now online—passports, driver licenses, land records, just to name a few. Food stamps are distributed as electronic vouchers; pensions, education stipends, and social grants are directly transferred to bank or mobile money accounts. These changes are not limited to rich economies—countries like Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Pakistan, and Rwanda, for example, are leapfrogging their way towards digital governance at a rapid pace. The language of governance is changing, and it is becoming increasingly digital.

In this dynamic and evolving context, how can digital technologies play a positive role to achieve the ambitious objectives and targets embodied in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? How can they both empower citizens and improve state capacity? What can we learn from the experiences of digital reform in developing countries? Finally, what can we say about the future trajectory of digital governance—the guiding principles, the harmonization of policy design and technology, the risks, and the challenges going forward?

About this Publication

By Alan Gelb , Anit Mukherjee , Kyle Navis