Creating Digital Identity Options for an Analog World

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Around the world 250 million children under five didn’t have their birth registered, yet not having something as straightforward as a birth certificate can have serious consequences.
In Sub-Saharan Africa alone over 50% of children remain unregistered by their 5th birthday, but thirty-two countries in Sub-Saharan Africa require a birth certificate to access education, sixteen require one to access social support, and six to access healthcare.
In Indonesia a birth certificate is the only form of legal identity, but 58% of the poorest children don’t have their births registered. As they get older, how do they claim rights to things like land tenure, inheritance and nationality?
Incredibly, 1 in 7 people on the planet don’t officially exist – they lack official identification.
In recognition of the scale of the problem identity was included within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 16.9 commits the sector to, by 2030, providing legal identity for all, including free birth registrations.
But providing people with a way of proving who they are is only half of the problem. Ensuring that the six billion of us with some form of identity find them simple to use, and useful, is critical, particularly as more and more of us live out more and more of our lives online.
Digital Identity Solution Research
Recently the Social Impact Team at Yoti undertook research in Africa and South East Asia to better understand what non-profits working in these places might need from an identity solution, with an assumption that smartphones, connectivity and official identity documents would be in short, even non-existent, supply.
Key takeaways included:

  1. Identification is a unique roadblock to a large number of desirable outcomes. The absence of effective and secure methods for proving identity presents a challenge across a range of sectoral and programmatic outcomes.
  2. Among programme specialists with a range of technical expertise, biometrics are seen as a potentially important area in which identification technology could be well- used.
  3. Privacy is a major concern – in practical terms, both participants and organisations would be concerned about the potential of identification technology to increase their vulnerability through abuse or fraud, and so privacy is a key requirement.
  4. Most organisations showed interest in a solution that could help them in their work but raised concerns about technical capacity both internally and within the government frameworks (where applicable).
  5. The vast majority of identity needs at the local NGO level are straightforward and simple, and providing an easy-to-use, technically-light solution to them has the potential to unlock considerable social impact potential.

Our Identity Idea: Yoti Key
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Building on this research, the Social Impact Team at Yoti are now leading the development of a digital identity solution to support development efforts in places where most existing digital identity solutions do not work.
This offline version of one of our digital identity solutions, Yoti Key is a secure, encrypted NFC-enabled physical key which allows individuals to share aspects of their identity when they interact with a service – a hospital, food programme, refugee registration programme, cash giving initiative and so on.
The beauty for NGOs working in last-mile environments, or with constituents living in areas without Internet access, or without their own smartphone, is that it enables them to digitally and more efficiently manage interactions with their services, often for the first time. Crucially, the software will also be open source, allowing anyone anywhere to build on the back of the base platform we provide.
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in piloting when the product is available in a few months time then we’d love to hear from you. We’re looking for partners to test and pilot the Keys , and we will provide Keys and technical support for free.
By Ken Banks, Head of Social Impact, Yoti
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