Blockchain and the global identity crisis

Blockchain and biometric technologies are helping Accenture, Microsoft and Avande cut a pioneering path towards making digital identity a reality.

The companies developed an identity prototype based on blockchain technology to help make digital identity a reality for the one-sixth of the world’s population who have no proof of their own existence. Yes, that’s right, there are approximately 1.1 billion people worldwide with no recognized identity, so cannot participate in cultural, political, economic and social life, and officially, don’t exist.

“People without a documented identity suffer by being excluded from modern society,” said David Treat, Managing Director, Accenture.

The prototype builds on the ID2020 partnership, of which Accenture and Microsoft are founding partners. It’s a movement to make digital identity a reality through a technology-forward approach.

“Our prototype is personal, private and portable, empowering individuals to access and share appropriate information when convenient and without the worry of using or losing paper documentation,” added Treat.

How it works

The prototype was demonstrated earlier this month at the ID2020 Summit at the United Nations and will give individuals authority over who can access to their personal information, and when to release and share data. It has the following characteristics:

  • runs on Microsoft Azure, the company’s cloud platform;
  • in true blockchain style, is a decentralized database architecture, maintained by multiple, trusted parties on the blockchain (eliminating the need for a central authority);
  • does not store any personally identifiable information, instead tapping into existing ‘off-chain’ systems (transactions on any system that’s not the blockchain) when the individual user grants access;
  • designed to interoperate with existing identity systems so that personally identifiable information always resides off-chain;
  • aligns to principles of the Decentralized Identity Foundation;
  • uses the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance’s private, or permissioned blockchain protocol; and
  • its Unique Identity Service platform deploys a biometrics system that can manage fingerprints, iris and other data.

“This is a great example of design and technology coming together to address the challenges facing so many vulnerable individuals in our society today,” said Lorna Ross, Group Director, Accenture.

The Accenture Unique Identity Service platform is the heart of the Biometric Identity Management System, currently used by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The system has enrolled more than 1.3 million refugees in 29 countries across Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, and it’s expected to support more than 7 million refugees from 75 countries by 2020.

Identity management

Outside the drive to help those displaced and with no official identity, innovators, including governments, have been developing ways of using blockchain to build new solutions for identity management. The US Department of Homeland Security in August awarded grants to four companies that will utilize distributed ledger technology for identity solutions.

Meanwhile, blockchain’s effectiveness at identity validation is not only being embraced for humans; creating identities on the blockchain for products and goods has already become a reality. One examples is London-based self-described social enterprise Project Provenance which seeks to use blockchain to enable “every physical product to come with a digital ‘passport’ that proves authenticity (Is this product what it claims to be?) and origin (Where does this product come from?), creating an auditable record of the journey behind all physical products.”

If you’re interested in the imminent platform revolution, we’ve just published this free ebook, Platforms: Join the revolution. Download it to read more about how your company can participate in and reap the benefits of the revolution. You might also like to get involved in the blockchain discussion on TM Forum Community.


    About The Author


    Arti has been writing and editing for seven years in the fields of technology, business and finance. She is particularly interested in how firms are innovating to bring us into the next digital age.

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