DIGITAL IDENTITY: NIGERIA EDITION

DIGITAL IDENTITY: NIGERIA EDITION

In your pocket there’s something at the center of one of today’s most profound technological and political shifts: an ID. Around the world, over 100 countries are pushing their citizens towards standardized biometric national identification systems to improve the provision of government services and reduce fraud.


We’ve written before about India’s Aadhaar initiative, a digital ID and biometrics program, which has registered over a billion people, or more than 90 percent of India’s population. In Nigeria, the government is moving to make a similar scheme mandatory for all recipients of government services. The National Identification Number, or NIN, which was introduced in 2014, hasn’t had the success as Aadhaar—with only 15 percent of Nigerians signing up to date.

That could now change, and the lesson of Nigeria’s experiment sheds a light on the opportunities and challenges of this important technology:

Better services vs higher costs: As with Aadhaar, Nigeria’s digital ID has the potential to cut fraud and smooth the way for millions of poorer citizens to receive government services more easily. Through the scheme, Nigerians will be granted greater access to banks, insurance, and pensions. But along with better services also comes higher costs. Today, only around one-in-four Nigerians pays taxes. The government hopes that the national identification number will help to bring that up, by expanding their ability to track and tax individuals’ incomes.

Ambition vs implementation: Signing up millions of people by the January deadline will be a logistical nightmare. In Nigeria, many people, particularly in rural areas, live far from the government offices where biometric details are harvested, and it’s not clear that the government has the capacity to pull off a crash registration program. But overcoming this initial hurdle could pay big dividends by, for example, enabling the government to provide aid and services to around 2 million internally displaced Nigerians.

Security vs privacy: The biometric system could also help to stem the cross-border movements of Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group concentrated in northeastern Nigeria. The militants had earlier been caught producing fake IDs—an attempt to skirt army border checks. The flipside: keeping so much sensitive citizen data in one place is an invitation to hackers and criminals to try to steal it. There’s also the risk that, without the proper controls or safeguards, a system that tracks its citizens so closely could open the door to mass surveillance.

A sector that's rapidly expanding, domotics - domus (home) plus robotics - are smart houses that manage temperature and lighting to minimize wasted electricity. For example, smart thermostats sense your presence and set the temperature according to your needs, saving 20% a year on heating bills. Watch this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series to learn how domotics save money and increase a home's value.

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

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When will it be safe for the world's children to be vaccinated against COVID-19? The World Health Organization's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, says that vaccines are being tested in children down to the age of six or even lower, and promises that data on children will be shared as soon as it's available. She also notes that there are not enough studies on transmission in schools, and the WHO has advised governments to prioritize schools "over other things like shopping malls or cinema halls or pubs." Dr. Swaminathan spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Over the past half century, climate change has had an immense impact on the farmers who produce the food we eat. A new study by Cornell University shows that global warming has knocked 21 percent off of global agriculture productivity growth since 1965, equivalent to seven years of normal growth if humans had not polluted the planet. But not all countries have been affected in the same say. Farmers in warmer parts of the world have been hit hard as conditions grow more arid, but sub-polar regions in Canada or Siberia are now actually better for agriculture because they are not as cold as they used to be. Here we take a look at how climate has affected farming productivity growth around the world.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

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Should the Biden administration "reverse course on China" in the hope of establishing a friendlier relationship, as diplomat Kishore Mahbubani argues in a recent Financial Times op-ed? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Michael Hirson take out the Red Pen to explain why it's not that simple.

And today, we are talking about the United States and China. The relationship between the two most powerful nations in the world is the worst it's been since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Pundits and policymakers alike all around the world are trying to figure out how Washington and Beijing can at least stop the bleeding because a reset is nowhere in the cards.

That's the topic of the op-ed that we are looking at today. It's from the Financial Times, written by Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani, and the title summarizes the key argument: "Biden should summon the courage to reverse course on China." Meaning, he should throw out the Trump era approach and open the door to more cooperation and kinder, gentler relations.

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