The two companies demonstrated a prototype that could help provide officially recognised identification for 7 million refugees worldwide
Accenture and Microsoft are joining forces on a blockchain-powered digital identification network as part of a United Nations-backed humanitarian programme.
The companies demonstrated a prototype version of the network on Monday at the UN’s headquarters in New York City during the second summit of ID2020, a public-private consortium promoting the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goal of providing a legal identity for the entire human population.
ID2020 specifically aims at providing identification for 1.1 billion people worldwide who have no officially recognised identity documents, including 7 million refugees, by 2020.
The prototype draws on a person’s biometric information, such as fingerprints or a retina scan, and is secured by blockchain, a technology initially associated with the cryptographic currency Bitcoin but increasingly used for other purposes in the financial sector and elsewhere.
A blockchain is a distributed database that’s designed to resist modification of the data, so that it provides a verifiable and permanent record of a series of transactions.
The tool developed by Accenture and Microsoft is intended to allow refugees to use a smartphone app to prove they are coming from a refugee camp and qualify for aid. It is also intended to give refugees a way of proving their identity when required to access services such as education and healthcare.
“Establishing identity is critical to accessing a wide range of activities, including education, healthcare, voting, banking, mobile communications, housing, and family and childcare benefits,” Accenture said in a statement.
The prototype interoperates with existing identity systems used by both public- and private-sector organisations, and doesn’t itself store data in any centralised system.
Individuals maintain control over who is granted access to their information, a safeguard intended to protect refugees who may be fleeing a hostile government.
Personal information can’t be stored or forwarded by third parties, Accenture said.
The system could give displaced people who don’t have access to paper documentation proving birth or education details a way of proving who they are.
“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,” stated David Treat, managing director at Accenture’s global blockchain business.
The system is based on Accenture’s Unique Identity Service Platform, which already powers the biometricy identity management system used by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and runs on Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform.
Accenture and Microsoft worked on the prototype with managed service provider Avanade and are looking for other partners who wish to participate.
In February of this year the two companies were amongst more than two dozen organisations who formed an alliance to use the Ethereum blockchain upon which the prototype is based.
At last year’s ID2020 Microsoft said it was working with Blockstack Labs and ConsenSys on a blockchain-based identity system designed to combat human rights crimes that hinge on the lack of legal identification.
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