Microsoft, along with Mercy Corps, Hyperledger and the UN International Computing Centre, has joined the ID2020 Alliance public-private partnership, which is committed to improving lives through digital identity.
Announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Microsoft will donate US$1 million to the effort, joining Accenture and the Rockefeller Foundation as major donors to the initiative.
According to World Bank data, over one billion individuals are unable to prove their identity and therefore struggle to access critical services and benefits.
“A refugee’s future is far less certain than most of us, but their identities shouldn't be. We’re committed to leveraging our technology and expertise to continue to bring digital identities – and the basic rights, services and opportunities they enable – to those who need it most,” said Mary Snapp, corporate vice president and lead for Microsoft Philanthropies. “Partnering with an organisation like ID2020 will drive progress on ensuring everyone has access to identification.”
Digital identity offers an opportunity to provide streamlined access to services, both for individuals and governments.
“Among the millions of people in the world who are displaced from their homes, women are often the most vulnerable – with digital IDs, they can access essential health and social services, apply for jobs, open mobile money accounts in their own name, and buy what they need most for themselves and their families,” said Neal Keny-Guyer, chief executive officer of Mercy Corps. “According to research, refugees displaced for six months are highly likely to be displaced for a minimum of three years and average of 17. That’s why Mercy Corps is committed to alliances like ID2020 and partnerships with national governments, the United Nations and the private sector to ensure people have safe access to a personal identity.”
“In both developed and developing countries, we are living more of our lives online. Decentralised, user-controlled digital identity holds the potential to unlock economic opportunity for refugees and others who are disadvantaged, while concurrently improving the lives of those simply trying to navigate cyberspace securely and privately,” said David Treat, managing director and co-head of the global blockchain practice at Accenture.
With a focus on user-control and privacy, ID2020 Alliance partners are considering the potential of blockchain technologies to give individuals direct ownership of, and control over, their personal information. User-owned digital identity would be complementary with existing identity management systems, including forms of legal identification issued by a government. The digital identity provides a backbone to credentials, including state-issued ones, can be associated, allowing authentication for individuals.
“The technology community has long used open standards, open source software, and open networks as a way to coordinate and cooperate,” said Brian Behlendorf, executive director of Hyperledger. “We’re excited to be helping ID2020 apply these techniques to such an urgent and global issue.”