Recently, we wrote a post about the ITU’s goal for creating identities for everyone by 2030. While that is a laudable goal, that still leaves hundreds of millions of people without proper identity for up to 12 years. This group will have a tough time getting a bank account, registering for government services, and acquiring a driver’s license among other activities that can help improve their lives.
There are a variety of identity projects underway that offer potential solutions. Besides helping to provide a base layer of identity for those who don’t have any ID, these initiatives can help enable new apps and services that help all of us, improving privacy protections and creating new economic opportunities.
IndiaStack is India’s technology plan to create a set of APIs that enable a modern, digital society. The first step is Aadhaar, a system to issue unique ID numbers. On top of that layer are different applications such as for delivering government services, performing KYC verification, signing electronic documents, and making digital payments.
In six years, Aadhaar has created over one billion unique IDs and now covers about 99% of adults. It shows what a concerted effort can achieve in a short time. According to one study mentioned in a Time article on the Aadhaar ID System, “one study found that the rate of financial inclusion subsequently rose by 24 percent among women between 2014 and 2015. Altogether, approximately 220 million (bank) accounts were opened.”
According to Paul Romer, chief economist at the World Bank, "The system in India is the most sophisticated that I’ve seen," Romer said. "It’s the basis for all kinds of connections that involve things like financial transactions. It could be good for the world if this became widely adopted."
However, critics point out keeping identity information in one central database poses potential issues. Dakota Gruener, executive director at ID2020 notes "Centralized databases, even if the information contained therein on any one individual is kept to a minimum, pose a risk." There are privacy concerns of allowing any entity to collect too much information as well as risks of hacking or otherwise compromising the information.
ID2020 is a public-private consortium aiming to solve the challenge of providing identity for the 1.1 billion people who currently have none. It provides advocacy, promoting education on the topic. It facilitates collaboration, to speed up uptake. And, it encourages, “collaborative development of the underlying system needed to make global digital identity possible through an identity exchange layer.”
One such development is a prototype of a digital ID network unveiled June 19, 2017. A collaboration between Microsoft, Accenture, and Avanade, the prototype is based on blockchain technology and “is designed to empower individuals with direct consent over who has access to their personal information, and when to release and share data.”
Part of the solution is the Unique Identity Service Platform, which uses biometrics to create an identification record. Already in use by the UN, the system has created records for 1.3 million refugees. By 2020, over seven million refugees from 75 countries will have IDs issued based on the technology.
Decentralized Identity Foundation
There are other projects using blockchain technologies for identity verification. A group of companies have come together on the Decentralized Identity Foundation. While brand new, the vision is to provide:
An open source decentralized identity ecosystem for people, organizations, and devices that enables a new class of apps and services.
Source: Decentralized Identity Foundation
Here is video presentation by Daniel Buchner, Head of Decentralized Identity at Microsoft that paints the big picture.
The World Bank’s identity initiative, Identification for Development (ID4D), assists countries “analyze problems, design solutions, and implement new systems to increase the number of people with official identification and the development impact of the overall identification system.”
ID4D has three focus areas:
Create and collect research, case studies and guides about why identity is important, best practices and implementation strategies.
Global Convening and Advocacy
Create a shared Principles on Identification for Sustainable Development. These principles will help create legal and regulatory frameworks in different countries to speed up adoption to the goal of “Making Everyone Count.”
Country and Regional Engagement
Create assessments, assist multi-stakeholder dialog, and provide other implementation assistance from design to financing.
ID4D has an overview document which outlines the problems and possible solutions: Principles on Identification for Sustainable Development: Toward the Digital Age
Consortium View of Identity
Here at Trulioo, our stated goal is to cover all seven billion of us; we already provide identity coverage for over four billion people, so we’re well on our way. However, we want to reach that goal well before 2030.
From our deep experience in the identity field, we understand that there won’t be one solution, one be-all-end-all answer. Individuals will have different data needs and privacy beliefs, so will approach identity in unique ways. Different countries have different legal frameworks, cultural biases and requirements from their identity systems. Different data providers have different technologies, data usage rules and business models, so will differ on how they offer their data.
Trulioo embraces these differences with our consortium view of identity. For example, our Data Exchange platform provides the ability for mobile app developers to generate revenue while helping users prove their identity, which also facilitates additional elements for combating fraud.
Technologies change, governments change, people change; therefore identity systems need to be able to change. It’s through a consortium view, a shared view that brings in various elements that will provide the identity needs for all. A consortium view avoids the nightmare scenario of one master database that knows all. A consortium view delivers data based on requirements and permissions and is therefore adaptable and dynamic. It is by working together, combining the best technologies and data sources, that we will reach full identity coverage. We know it’ll be tough but it’s a vital goal that drives us forward every day.