Tuesday, June 20, 2017

ID2020 Summit

Yesterday, I attended the ID2020 summit held at the UN and at Microsoft office near Times Square. It was a great meeting of folks from humanitarian and private sector focused on identity as a fundamental human right.

I thought the following points stood out (obviously with my bias :) ):

Identity is a fundamental human right.

The ID2020 conference was about that obviously, but come to think of it, is there anything that can be done in the world today without an identity? Getting a mobile phones, which is probably the universal device every one has, requires an identity.

Human identity needs to be decoupled from national identity

If identity is a human right like food or water, then it should probably be decoupled from national identity. Could there be a truly globally distributed identity system? But is that even possible? And is that really needed? A government issued identity probably is more valuable to a farmer than a fully distributed identity. Obviously, food for thought.

Vaccination card is often the first identity of a human being

Almost every child in the world is vaccinated. A vaccination card is often the first identity for a child in a world where birth certificates do not exist.

Simplicity is the king - for identity too

If there is one lesson from Aadhaar, India's identity system for a billion people, it is that simplicity is the king. An identity system that tries to meet requirements for everyone cannot work. Instead, a simple system which provides citizens with a digital identity that is verifiable, and which allows application to be built on top using derived identities is probably the way to go.

Of course, in a system like Aadhaar, the issuing authority is the government. What if the government turns on its citizens?

A human should own their identity

There is a reason phrases in English exist such as, "I have my own identity". A human should own their identity and the data associated with it, and provide consent to it.

Identity is for things too

While identity for humans is important, the things in the "Internet of things" need an identity too.

Verification / attestation of digital identity

When identity goes digital, the need for verifying identity arises. Aadhaar, for example, has 600 Million verifications per month. Similarly, identity attestation is needed for various applications

The above list is just my recollection; there were many interesting discussions in different focus groups.

Onwards to digital identity.