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Accepted Paper:

Social registries as devices for entrenching residualism within social policy regimes  
Kate O'Donnell (International Institute of Social Studies) Andrew Fischer (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Paper short abstract:

To explore how social registries have profound implications for social policy systems, at the institutional and policy level by shaping the model of targeting and the eligibility conditions, and at the level of implementation by depoliticising the way claims can be made on the state.

Paper long abstract:

Despite criticisms and chronic operational problems, the World Bank has been promoting an agenda of establishing and using social registries for poverty targeting in cash transfer programmes and other policy areas, with the intention of making these registries into the backbone of social policy provisioning in the Global South. Social registries are large-scale data systems that collect socio-economic data on households for poverty targeting. Since 2010, the World Bank has provided loans to develop social registries to forty-one Sub-Saharan African countries, with a significant increase since COVID-19. However, the implications of these data systems in shaping social policy systems and people’s eligibility and access to social entitlements has received scant attention.

Drawing on fieldwork in Kenya and a general assessment of this agenda across the Global South, this paper explores the implications of social registries on social policy systems. We argue that social registries are profoundly influencing social policy architectures, albeit in discrete and even covert ways, through institutionalising segregationist and disempowering modalities of targeting in social protection, which deeply shape the way claims can be made on the state. In lieu of building civil registries that cover the whole population, the registries are also creating data systems that are biased towards these modalities and ill-equipped for transitioning towards more universalistic modalities of social policy.

From a data justice perspective, this research demonstrates how data systems in development policy can be used to obscure politicised agendas, such as using social registries to lock countries into a neoliberalised social policy trajectories.

Panel P04
Data justice and development [Digital Technologies, Data and Development SG]
  Session 2 Thursday 27 June, 2024, -