Nontawat Poomchusri, the managing director of Accenture in Thailand.
Nontawat Poomchusri, the managing director of Accenture in Thailand.

Heavyweights team up on blockchain solution

Economy September 09, 2017 01:00


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INCREASED attention is being focused on solving the challenges of identity faced by more than 1.1 billion people around the world.

About one-sixth of the world’s population cannot participate in cultural, political, economic and social life because they lack the most basic information -– documented proof of their existence. 

Establishing identity is critical to accessing social welfare, including education, healthcare, voting, banking, mobile communications, housing, and family and childcare benefits. 

The goal of ID2020, a global public-private partnership, is to make digital identity a reality through a technology-forward approach that will leverage secure and well-established systems. 

Accenture, in partnership with Microsoft and Avanade, has developed an identity prototype based on blockchain technology – a type of database system that enables multiple parties to share access to the same data with an extremely high level of confidence and security. 

Demonstrated at the United Nations ID2020 Summit in June, the prototype builds on existing capabilities in blockchain and can develop and deploy large-scale biometric systems running on Microsoft Azure, the company’s cloud platform that offers global scale, flexibility and security.

It is designed to empower individuals with direct consent over who has access to their personal information, and when to release and share data.

It is a sophisticated, decentralised, or “distributed”, database architecture maintained by multiple, trusted parties on the blockchain, eliminating the need for a central authority.

It does not store any personally identifiable information and instead taps into existing “off-chain” systems when the individual user grants access.

It is personal, private and portable and meant to empower individuals to access and share information when convenient and most importantly, without worry of using or losing paper documentation. 

How it works

People without a documented identity no longer have to suffer exclusion from modern society. 

An added benefit is that the prototype is designed to operate with existing ID systems so that personally identifiable information always resides “off chain”. 

It also aligns to the principles of the Decentralised Identity Foundation, and uses the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance’s private, or “permissioned”, blockchain protocol.

To solve problems faced by people who lack official identities, the prototype will utilise the Unique Identity Service Platform to deploy a breakthrough biometrics system that can manage fingerprints, iris scans and other data. 

For example, the technology can provide undocumented refugees with a steadfast personal ID record, ensuring that they can receive assistance where and when needed, and has been put into practical use. 

The platform is the heart of the Biometric Identity Management System used by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which has enrolled more than 1.3 million refugees in 29 countries across Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. 

The system is expected to support more than seven million refugees from 75 countries by 2020. 

Identity is one of the most important needs in international development, though largely unnoticed, and an area where the private sector is uniquely positioned to contribute. 

The motivation for supporting ID2020 is to provide the global scale, flexibility and security necessary to ensure that progress is made on what is widely recognised as a critical societal need.

A collective effort 

This example demonstrates where design and technology can come together to address the challenges facing the many vulnerable individuals in society today, and can further galvanise efforts internationally towards a solution that guarantees the right to an identity for the invisible everywhere.

The ID2020 consortium brings together governments, NGOs, technologists and experts from the public and private sectors to ensure that the best technological innovations are implemented in ways that are scalable, secure and sustainable. 

It shares many similarities with The Partnership for Refugees, where pro bono strategic consulting, project management and digital services were provided. 

The partnership helped more than 50 corporations better understand refugees’ needs to develop effective responses across three impact areas – education, employment and enablement. 

The overarching goal is to improve how the world works and lives through digital technologies and to solve some of its most pressing challenges. 

ID2020 serves as an important example of how different companies and organisations can work together to support some of the world’s most vulnerable people. 

Contributed by Nontawat Poomchusri, the managing director of Accenture in Thailand.