Monday, March 24, 2014

2 April 2014: Building State Capacity for Better Program Implementation: Evidence from Biometric Smartcards in India

Karthik Muralidharan
University of California, San Diego

In this lecture organised by NCAER, Karthik Muralidharan will present results from a path-breaking three-year study, done jointly with Paul Niehaus (UCSD) and Sandip Sukhtankar (Dartmouth), on the impact of using biometrically-authenticated Smartcards to make payments to NREGS and Pension beneficiaries in Andhra Pradesh. Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission will be the Chief Guest at the lecture and lead the discussion.

Social protection programs in India are often plagued with leakage and corruption, and beneficiaries often face several challenges in accessing payments. One of the most promising attempts to increase state capacity to effectively implement programs is India’s ambitious initiative to provide all residents with a biometrically-authenticated Aadhar number linked to bank accounts, which can be used to directly transfer benefits. While this is a promising initiative, skeptics have raised several concerns including implementation challenges, subversion by vested interests, exclusion errors, and cost effectiveness.

The Andhra Pradesh Smartcard Program used biometrically-authenticated Smartcards to make payments under NREGS and Social Security Pensions and was a functional pre-cursor to the integration of Aadhar with these programs. Prof. Muralidharan will present results from a large-scale, scientifically rigorous, randomized impact evaluation of the AP Smartcard program on beneficiary experiences and leakage. The study finds that the new technology delivered a faster, more predictable, and less corrupt payments process that was also highly cost-effective (in spite of several implementation challenges). The results suggest that investing in secure authentication and payment infrastructure can significantly enhance “state capacity” to effectively implement a broad range of programs.

Date: April 2, 2014
Time: 05:30 P.M.

Multi-Purpose Hall
India International Centre (New Wing),
Max Mueller Marg, Lodi Estate,
New Delhi - 110 003

Participation by Invitation only.
For queries contact Ms Sudesh Bala at or on 011-2345-2669.


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