As is usually the case with disruptive technologies, there is a growing consensus that Blockchain is capable of lending itself to social change, notably with regards to the United Nations Sustainable Goals (SDGs), a series of 17 goals adopted in 2016 aiming to end economic development issues such as hunger, poverty or social injustice. This includes SDG goal Target 16.9, Legal identity for all before 2030.
Building on the prospects of the Fintech industry along with the aspirations of the UN, Blockchain’s core operational principles — namely transparency, decentralisation, equality, and accountability — can be leveraged to solve prevalent and deeply ingrained societal issues. What is more, giving the marginalised a voice to express their needs in the globalisation debate.
With more than 1 billion people currently deprived of any form of identity, it is apparent that a large number of individuals will not be able to participate in the global economy and access financial services and education. This is one of the most significant barriers to economic inclusion, thereby undermining the efficacy of centralized identity systems. Another issue which emerges in relation to this is data control: the recent Facebook scandal that rose to global prominence clearly demonstrated that we do not have ownership of our data. Moreover, online identity theft is an increasingly common problem.
Consequently, the desirability of self-sovereign identity manifests itself as an aim of paramount importance that can be achieved through the use of Blockchain.
This approach was endorsed by the ID2020 project, a global alliance of many large enterprises like Microsoft and Accenture, which coordinate funding to support high-impact projects and give control to the individual over his own identity and associated data. The project was launched in 2014 by John Edge, a social entrepreneur specialising in financial technology and digital identity.
Similar steps were taken by EverID, a decentralised application which gives the user the ability to record, update, store, and transfer value through the use of digital identities, digital wallets, and biometrics such as facial recognition and fingerprints to create an immutable ledger. Individuals will able to verify their identity for public services and claim social rights, permitting complete personal data ownership, and high levels of security: information will not be recorded or used without the user’s consent. Other notable benefits include an easy structure for cash transfers, loans, remittances, as well as management of medical records and micro-insurance. Â
Likewise, the Blockcerts application enables its users to create, view, and verify Blockchain-based certificates, cryptographically signed and shareable, with a goal to encourage the use of these technical resources amongst other developers, for an interoperable future. The process is simple: the issuer invites his recipient to receive a blockchain-based credential, which he accepts by sending the issuer his Blockchain address. The issuer then hashes credential onto the Blockchain and sends the recipient a Blockchain credential, subsequently sent to the verifier who checks the Blockchain to confirm the authenticity of the certificate. These records include professional certifications, academic and civic records, while being also committed to availability of data: as a matter of fact, one would be compelled to go to a centralised agency and manage these documents in any country.
One of the biggest Blockchain development houses in the word, Consensys, created the uPort project, a collection of tools build upon open standards for building decentralised user data, allowing them to register their own identity on Ethereum, send and request credentials, and sign transactions.
Hence, the platform can be seen as a library where users can manage their data with their Ethereum account in one place by dapps that use a web3 browser. With the self-sovereign wallet, transactions, and keys can be managed in one easy location to enhance efficacy, the simplicity of which is reflected by the straightforward authentication process.
Citizens download uPort, register their identity, which is verified by a local registration office. Subsequently, the office grants them a credential and the ability to access government services, before organisations, whether public or private, offer them services.
In a world increasingly driven by data, Blockchain has the potential to revolutionise the way governments, corporates, and NGOs deliver digital entitlements all around the world, a vehicle for democratisation empowering the most vulnerable members of emerging markets, along with providing more protection for our own personal protection. But as special advisor for UN Engagement and Blockchain technology Yoshiyuki Yamamoto him puts it, ‘’it cannot be done overnight, we are still at a very early stage’’.