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Distributed Ledger Technologies ("Blockchain") are the foundation for the most disruptive changes to business we are either already observing or that are on the road to becoming a reality. Based on these technologies, both new business models and fundamental changes to established models become possible – and what is technically feasible and economical beneficial will happen.
However, there is still one missing element for fully leveraging the Blockchain potential: Identity. Identity in that context is far more than just identification, authentication, or authorization. It is about linking people, transactions, and digital assets. It is about managing properties, rights, agreements, and contracts – linked to persistent, reliable identities. This is where Blockchain ID comes into play, because it is the only way to enable many of the business scenarios of tomorrow. There is still some way to go for Blockchain ID, starting from making it more than an ID for identification, authentication, or authorization.
Blockchain, Identity and Privacy: Three words that buzz, fade and mature.
Governments are building huge identity systems because they need to plan service delivery, understand demographics and deliver essentials such as healthcare and education whilst building digital economies and addressing financial inclusion. They also have concerns over fraudulent activity, security and border control. These are conflicting issues with very different needs.
Technology always moves faster than laws and government capacity is often behind the curve. Knowing what to implement, when and how is difficult when capacity is low.
Digital economies need digital identity, as does true service transformation. To be able to do this at national or international scale without creating a mechanism for an attack on all of our basic rights we need the crucial building block of digital identity to act for the users and not just for the use cases.
So how do we do this in a world where country after country is moving to implement ever more capable identity systems?
Digital Identity and Security solutions impact our environment, typically in a positive and securing manner. However research shows that increasingly digitization of identity services, for digital identity, also exclude and harm individuals.
In this presentation Henk will detail his research into the impact of digital identity solutions on nation state level and how to start involving ethics in the design and implementation of these solutions.
The findings also apply to designing and implementing security solutions for other purposes than digital identity.
The approach to engage with ethical conversations during design will be explained theoretically, linking to the background of Value Sensistive Design (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value_sensitive_design) and made practical by case studies of Ethics in Security Design.
Henk has been researching the ethics of digital identity at Leiden University, NL, in 2022.
Over the past 12-18 months, there has been a mounting interest in how Blockchain technology might support the next generation of IAM systems. The promises of decentralized and self-sovereign identity, which promote a frictionless user experience and improved privacy controls, are very appealing to any organization looking to reduce both costs and risks. But how do you get started? Many organizations are just starting their journey to cloud, so the idea of Identity + Blockchain may seem too futuristic. In this session, experts from IBM will share how clients are progressively moving towards a decentralized identity solution today while maintaining and integrating it into their existing identity management systems. Learn, how use cases like passwordless authentication for law enforcement personnel and digital job credentials are becoming a reality. Moving to cloud-based IAM is the first step in the process, and with the right strategy, the next generation IAM is closer than you think.
Recent research estimates that there are 1.5 billion individuals who do not have any means to prove their legal identity. Failing states lacking to perform even the most basic administrative tasks, supressed ethnic groups, and of course all those who have to flee their home due to conflicts or disasters.
New thinking is required to make identification available to all humans, and to help refugees and displaced people to cross borders and to apply for asylum. In this panel discussion, we will try to outline a blockchain based supranational identity infrastructure under the roof of an organization like UN.
The risk of being digitally vulnerable, or not being able to access basic services, affects us all. There can be no doubt that enhancing accessibility features across digital access journeys is tremendously important in helping people simply and safely connect with the digital world. But this doesn’t go far enough.
What you’ll learn from this session: How can adaptive, connected, and balanced digital identity go further in addressing universal digital vulnerability at the root, making sure no one gets left behind.
Thank you. Perfect. Thank you all.
And I, I hope that this dovetailed nicely with what Mia just shared and isn't too duplicative. I was sitting there sort of trying to figure out how I could modify my speech to reflect what you just heard from her.
And first I wanna just humanize the speech somewhat and say that I'm really encouraged by the conversation today and the inclusion of this topic, digital identity for the world's most vulnerable in the agenda, because I think it reflects a convergence from both the developing and developed worlds around the need for new models of identity and creates an, a real opportunity for those of us in this room to have a tremendous impact.
And I wanna share a quick story about how I got involved in identity, because I think it illustrates the potential impact of a solution and partially shares that I come from a sector very much unlike all of you. So I worked previously in global health policy for an organization called Gavi, which acts as a central coordinating body for childhood vaccines in the developing world. And in 2014, while working for Gavi, I visited Cameroon for the in west Africa for the launch of the country's RO virus vaccination program.
While conducting a site visit at a rural health clinic, I was amazed to see the clinic reporting coverage rates of 140% more children were being vaccinated than supposedly existed. What the clinic's program manager explained was that while they were meticulous in accounting for the number of vaccines, they dispensed, they had no idea what the denominator of that equation was meant to be Cameroon's. Last census was in the 1980s and children aren't regularly registered at birth. So the denominator of that equation was 30 year old trended out data with little relevance.
As Mia said, Cameroon's not unique. There are 1.5 billion people, including millions of children and women and refugees living without any form of officially recognized identification. And that figure is too large to easily comprehend. So think of it as the equivalent of all of China, simply not existing in any legal capacity, without a means to prove who they are.
It's very difficult and often impossible for these individuals to exercise basic rights such as voting access, essential services, such as healthcare education and thousands of the young and vulnerable are at an increased risk of human trafficking. So the implications for an individual's life are profound. This documents a little bit of it, but most I would like to also draw your attention to how this impacts refugees in the state list. There are 65 million people, more than in any other point in history who are currently displaced due to conflict, drought, famine, or other factors.
And of these more than 21 million are refugees of which than half are under the age of 18. These men, women, and children lack the most basic services and rights, shelter, safety, food, et cetera, and yet due to displacement. And they're often well plus placed distrust of authority. They're often the least able to assert their identity, their trustworthiness, and their right to services.
Indeed, for this population, new models of identity must be considered simply because our conceptions of the interplay of sovereignty breakdown entirely. I'd also like to add that this impacts organizations, governments, as Mia said, don't know how many people they're trying to serve as Mike story from Cameroon illustrated, you have billions and billions of dollars spent on humanitarian aid and development without a way to track the outcomes of that development spend on an individual level and businesses often play in places where the economics don't work.
For example, the reason microfinance rates are often so high is that the cost of service, those loans are actually exceptionally high. If you don't know someone is you can't understand their credit worthiness without it with any real confidence. So I believe that we have a moral imperative to step up and develop new technologies, new models of governance and the supporting legal and regulatory frameworks. And indeed this moral imperative is reflected increasing political will from both UN and the broader communities.
So the sustainable development goals include a goal of by 2030 providing legal identity for all, including birth registration. Jim Kim from the world bank has a pretty great line about this could be the greatest poverty killer app we've ever seen. And I wanna just touch quickly upon it, although they don't think I need to, you know, tell any of you in this room about this, that technology has a critical role to play as more of our lives come online. Technology is central to our approach.
Not only because we live more of our lives online, but because that's how we can reach people both here and in the developing world, they're currently 2.5 billion smartphones and smartphone penetration is 40% in Sub-Saharan Africa and rising incredibly rapidly, which means that though every individual may not have a phone phones are within reach remarkably in Malawi where birth registration rates are only 2% recent data suggests that 4% of the population has a Facebook account, which almost certainly means that there are Malawians with a Facebook presence who don't exist in the country's official records and internet enabled mobile phones are common and seen as a lifeline, a recent report by U N H C R emphasized that refugees viewed mobile phones and internet access is critical to their safety on par with water, food, and shelter.
But I think there's a challenge. And this is something that, again, me touched upon in that the current efforts are uncoordinated and often result in inefficient and worse outcomes. The way that we see this is as a market failure, and that we think that in thinking of it as a market failure, we also do as expose how there may be a business case for investments in solving this problem for the most disadvantaged. So this is an image albeit hard to make out describing the flow of financing for identity related projects in Malawi.
And this is just a small subset and intended to be illustrative, but all of those flows of funds are real. And what it shows is just how haphazard the funding availability is, and the complexity of those flows just within the UN ecosystem.
So this is not specific to Malawi, but globally, a recent study by U NDP estimated there were nine distinct agencies addressing some element of digital identity management, such as U N HCR R's work for, to register refugees U NDP support for voter registration and UNICEF's support for birth registration, but without a mechanism for coordination, the result in is investments in systems that by design do not interate. And ultimately this results in low coverage rates, loss of record continuity and huge amounts of wasted investment.
And in the context of international development and environment where donor resources are increasingly scarce, this is of critical importance. It should also, I think, matter to all of you because the incentives to participate in a fractured market are understandably low with high barriers to entry and a relatively large or relatively small addressable market size, but you fix this market failure and suddenly there's a market large enough for considerable focus to fix this market failure. We're focusing primarily on interoperability, ensuring a coordinated global response on a technology level.
And I think this is driven by understanding the needs voiced earlier, both the needs of the affected populations and the needs of the organizations. We need to establish uniqueness, not just within countries, but across borders and for people who are unable to rely on their government for credential issuance. Imagine the scenario of a refugee fleeing an unstable country, and they're concerned about their safety in the hands of another government. And they need a way to prove who they are when they arrive in a camp across a border.
When they settle in a community far away, if identity systems are bound by the borders of nation stage agencies or NGOs, the identity they've created is of limited, limited value, right? When they need it most. And we believe that if done correctly, digital identity can respond to these needs. You can have credentials that are portable, persistent, private and personal. And in fact work is already underway. U N H C R in recent years has started rolling out a digital identity program in some of the refugee camps in which they work.
It's a biometric enabled solution that enables individuals to withdraw cash transfers, using biometrics, et cetera. And the one of the interesting things, and I think Mia just touched upon this is that the program has seen tremendous success. It's cut costs. It's engendered trust. It's been rolled out in additional countries, but despite these successes, the technology has not grown a pace U N H C R has by its own admission, a limited technology budget, and little technical knowhow in, in house.
And furthermore, they recognize that that data remains siloed within their operations and cannot be used to assist refugees as they interact with other agencies or as they seek resettlement outside of a camp. So recognizing the limitations of its capabilities and the need for identity that transcends their borders and other organizational borders, the agency is now proposing partnership and trying to find some ways to heal this market failure. And the way that we think that you do that is essentially trying to institutionalize the mechanisms to bring these various stakeholders to the table.
I mentioned when I started that, I worked for an organization called Gavi. G's interesting in that it's a model potentially for how this could be done. It was launched by bill gates and a group of friends in 2000. And it quite literally brought all of the relevant stakeholders to the table in an organization that he originally thought would be nine people and a spreadsheet, but all of the relevant partners as stakeholders in the Alliance. And we think something similar is here.
We know the idea, this issue's complex, and as such, you need a mechanism to have these types of very complex conversations. So it creates a forum for technical innovations to be considered and potentially then sorts out the market failure, re rooting investments to repeat identification systems, which may actually mean that huge new amounts of funding are not required to scale this up. But furthermore, it attracts it can attract the big technology players to participate.
And so we are seeing commitments from Microsoft, Accenture and others saying that they wanna be a part of trying to collaboratively solve for this problem and the last piece and why I think I'm most enthusiastic is that there's a huge opportunity in doing this to leverage existing delivery networks, to further minimize costs and create a pathway to scale. Like I said, you know, I came from Gavi, they provide support in the 73 poorest countries on the planet, which collectively contain 60% of the world's birth cohort.
And in those countries, what you see is that there's actually a huge Delta between the number of children that we register at birth and the number of children that we provide vaccines to this is data from Malawi and Tanzania. But if we can start to rethink how you would, how you would build a system for digital identity that would allow people to enroll at multiple entry points.
And I, I don't say this to invalidate birth registration at all. I think it is absolutely a necessary starting point, but if you can allow people to enter through systems that they already interact with and address some of their personal incentives and motivations, it's a way to get people involved. So with that, I guess, so just say that if taken to scale, the potential impact is enormous.
We'd be able to more precisely target the billions of dollars of international aid, which is critical when crises keep getting worse and funding keeps getting cut, we'd recover billions of dollars lost to corruption. We could ensure that, you know, the billions of children receive their full course of vaccine and we could facilitate opportunity for these individuals. Thank you. Thank you as well, really fast, you 2010 minutes ahead of time for, okay. I think we, we can make interesting things all it. Yeah. What are the technology challenges that you see in that project?
The technology, one of the interesting ones is that the space is a rapidly evolving ecosystem. And I think that we don't have, we don't yet know what everyone is working on. It's hard to surface sort of what are the, you know, the latest and greatest in biometrics, the latest and greatest in sort of backend technology architecture, such that you can start fitting all of those pieces together. Okay. Are you working with specific groups to, to get there?
We, so we've been working on sort of backend technology with, like I said, Microsoft and Accenture, and it's very much an open door. We would love other participants as well.
And, you know, the notion is to say, we're pulling together this Alliance of stakeholders, and if you have relevant technology expertise, et cetera, we wanna be in touch. Okay. We have some more questions than people that ask us. Yeah. I guess there are some people who did not want to be identified by government. How do you handle these cases? Yeah.
So the, oh, I didn't realize that there was a cat town clock that would've been helpful. You know, I think that for people who do not wanna be identified by government, it's partially a matter of this is, you know, the central to this notion is that identity is owned by the individual. That the information is, is I shy away from the term self sovereign, but that is a term that we see bouncing around a lot. And so it could be that your entry point is not a government entity.
You know, it could be that you, you enroll through a trusted organization and you, you know, you have a digital identity that provides you with the ability to establish uniqueness. However, I think that those are sort of the outlier cases, not the, Okay, second question, which kind of biometrics are used currently to define a worldwide unique identity. So there, I mean, there, isn't a worldwide unique identity at the moment in term, but we're sort of, that's the way we're going. I think in terms of biometrics, it needs to be multimodal.
I think one of the things right now is that we don't know how that, you know, how the field of biometrics will evolve. And so we want to ensure that we can capture multiple forms of a biometrics for somebody today, but also create a system that's agnostic to, you know, the, the eventual evolution of, of biometric Technology. So fingerprint, Fingerprint, Iris, etcetera.
So it's, it's disparate. So it's, there's no trend to say what Well, I think that, that, I mean, by far, the things that we're seeing use most regularly at the moment are fingerprint and Iris, but the, I guess my point there was saying, what we're trying to say is that that technology will shift and that we need a solution that can accommodate changes in, in the underlying technology. Okay. That's why I stress sort of the Exchangeable. Yeah.
And I stress sort of the, the governance around all of this, because I think that that's the only way that you, you can facilitate sort of this not being a static view of, of a solution single solution. Okay. And I don't know whether you've been following the keynote presentation on blockchain technology yeah. Later on. So we are certainly in conversation about sort of the role that blockchain could play in all of this.
I, you know, I think it's important. We are taking a technology agnostic view to this. So it's not that we are advocating for blockchain or not for blockchain or any other solution in terms of technology.
However, we do wanna ensure that this fits the needs of individuals and sort of the ultimate use cases provided. And I think many people have made a very compelling case for why blockchain rooted identity is a, a potential piece of this. Okay. Yeah. Thank you very much. Thank.