ID4PAPD: Greasing Liberia’s Development Wheels

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Part 1: Welcome On-board the ID Train 

By Wellington Geevon Smith 

On behalf of the management of the National Identification Registry (NIR), it is my distinguished honor to welcome you to our special column on Liberia’s identification ecosystem, which we have titled, “Identification for the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (ID-4-PAPD): Greasing Liberia’s Development Wheels.” The column intends to show, through many articles, how biometric identification works and how it can help Liberia achieve speedy economic development to improve the living conditions of our citizens. We will run the ID column by publishing an article in this paper once every week, on Thursdays.

The host for this column is Honorable J. Tiah Nagbe, Executive Director of the NIR. We will also welcome contributions from anyone who has interest in identity matters. Mr. Nagbe is the first Executive Director of the NIR and will bring to this column his vast experience in the public and private sectors.  

Liberia is faced with enormous challenges in catching up with the rest of the world in many spheres of modern life. As the country went through years of civil conflict and subsequently worked to put its scattered pieces together for post-conflict democratic governance and development, the rest of the world marched forward with technology and left us farther behind. As part of efforts to reduce this gap, the Liberian Government decided eight years ago, in 2011, to establish a national biometric identification system through the National Identification Registry.

It is incumbent on Liberia to jump-start its identity revolution as simply put by Alan Gelb and Julia Clark of the Center for Global Development:  “Formal identification is a prerequisite for development in the modern world. The inability to authenticate oneself when interacting with the state — or with private entities such as banks inhibits access to basic rights and services, including education, formal employment, financial services, voting, social transfers, and more. Unfortunately, under-documentation is pervasive in the developing world. Civil registration systems are often absent or cover only a fraction of the population. In contrast, people in rich countries are almost all well-identified from birth. This identity gap is increasingly recognized as not only a symptom of underdevelopment but as a factor that makes development more difficult and less inclusive.”

We will cover a wide range of issues over the next six months, as we use this medium to deepen the understanding of Liberians and our key partners on identity matters. We promise to do our best in presenting these issues in simple terms, though these are quite challenging topics.

Again, we encourage you to follow Mr. J. Tiah Nagbe, Executive Director of the National Identification Registry (NIR), every Thursday as he addresses your concerns on the role of biometric identification in Liberia’s development agenda.

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