Friday, May 31, 2013

Countries are coming to know their poor by name

The Economist, has published a really good piece about the progress made in reducing global extreme poverty over the last twenty years and what it might take to finish the job over the next twenty.

Biometric smart cards get a mention toward the end in the passage below, but this is not a biometrics story, it's a story of how and why poverty, which used to be an effect of scarcity, can now be defined and addressed as a series of organizational challenges. Biometrics are helping people meet those challenges and we're proud of the work we've done in helping that process along.

Poverty: Not always with us (The Economist)
[...B]y 2030 nearly two-thirds of the world’s poor will be living in states now deemed “fragile” (like the Congo and Somalia). Much of the rest will be in middle-income countries. This poses a double dilemma for donors: middle-income countries do not really need aid, while fragile states cannot use it properly. A dramatic fall in poverty requires rethinking official assistance.

Yet all the problems of aid, Africa and the intractability of the final billion do not mask the big point about poverty reduction: it has been a hugely positive story and could become even more so. As a social problem, poverty has been transformed. Thanks partly to new technology, the poor are no longer an undifferentiated mass. Identification schemes are becoming large enough—India has issued hundreds of millions of biometric smart cards—that countries are coming to know their poor literally by name. That in turn enables social programmes to be better targeted, studied and improved. Conditional cash-transfer schemes like Mexico’s Oportunidades and Brazil’s Bolsa Família have all but eradicated extreme poverty in those countries.