We live in an era of change, both evolutionary and revolutionary. Exponential technological growth is driving humanity into a future that ensures more and more amazing new technologies will start to appear with increasing frequency. Many of these technologies are radically transformative and stand to upgrade our social customs as much as our hardware or software. This raises interesting moral and philosophical questions about technological growth in general and its true utility to humanity. If profound technological advancements are going to change our customs, we might want to think about the implications of leaving behind those who are less fortunate. The World Bank currently estimates that there are 1.1 billion people on Earth who cannot prove their identity. An ambitious new project, highlighted during the third annual Blockchain Summit, will attempt to leverage advancing technological trends to the benefit of the undocumented. The aim is to empower disenfranchised people around the world with technological identity solutions.
The World Identity Network (WIN) is a global initiative to advance the cause of universal identification by using 21st-century technology like blockchains and distributed ledgers. The initiative is led by seasoned identity professional Dr. Mariana Dahan. Dahan, formerly of the World Bank’s Identification for Development agenda, is recognized as one of the top 100 pioneers on One World Identity’s 2017 index of those advancing the idea of inclusion and its supporting technologies. Dahan told ETHNews about the impact WIN will have on our techno-social society: “Access to identity systems on open-source platforms will help solve profound governance problems and will help empower people, enabling each of us to access our ID data from anywhere, anytime.”
While the challenges of governance represent an incredible use case for open source blockchains, like Ethereum, for Dahan the power to effect the individual is paramount. She shared a heartfelt story that highlights the power of a blockchain: “Take the story of Natasha, a Ukrainian girl, who was lured into a scam and tragically became a sex slave in a brothel in Turkey at age 16. She was caught by police and thrown in prison for a crime she didn’t commit. But – because her fake ID documents said she was 21, not a defenseless minor – it was practically impossible for social workers to rescue her from the jail sentence. The girl suffered abuse, rape, and violence when she was in the brothel; now she faced injustice, cruelty and hypocrisy. It was only because her relatives were alerted in time and had enough resources to produce valid proof of her ID that the girl was recognized as an abducted minor and freed from jail. Now imagine if her ID documents were on the blockchain: they could be accessed from anywhere and she could have the power to prove she is who she claims to be, anytime, at the right time. Could the blockchain technology help restore trust in a broken system? I would like to believe so.”
WIN is technologically agnostic and is open to pursuing developments across the blockchain and DLT spectrum. By exploring a variety of open source platforms, including Ethereum, WIN hopes to provide flexibility to decision makers, creating the agility they need to tailor solutions to their specific problem(s). WIN has already announced collaborations with BitFury Group, ConsenSys Uport, IOTA, the Sovrin Foundation, and the Secure Identity Alliance.
Grete Faremo, Under Secretary-General for the United Nations and Executive Director of UNOPS, commended WIN recently, saying:
“The international community has yet to fully explore blockchain technology. Quite simply the potential is immense – more transparency and greater efficiency could deliver real benefits to billions of people. So at UNOPS we are proud to support global initiatives like WIN aiming to bring these benefits to countries across the world, to improve the lives of individuals, families, and communities.”
A number of undisclosed nations in Latin America and elsewhere have already expressed interest in accessing WIN’s services in advisory and technical capacities.