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Open Source API to Harmonise Government ID Systems

Open source project will be launched on GitHub

By CBR Staff Writer

A staggering 1.1 billion people worldwide cannot officially prove their identity, according to the World Bank’s Identification for Development (ID4D) Global Dataset.

It’s an issue that can result in real challenges securing finance and healthcare, to name just two examples. But governments, particularly in emerging markets, face siloed data repositories and fear of vendor lock-in.

A new open source API initiative launched today by Security Identity Alliance (SIA) aims to help tackle this problem by delivering technical interoperability between civil registration registries and civil identification registries, irrespective of architecture.

The company said in a release that the project is “endorsed by the world’s leading identity system vendors, this landmark initiative demonstrates an industry-wide commitment to breaking down the technical barriers to achieving the United Nations goal of establishing a legal identity for every citizen.”

The current technical problems for ID systems is that different data sets of citizen information are house in siloed repositories. Each with its own database type, format and application programming interface (API).

This new API could be instrumental in governments avoiding documentation challenges as highlighted recently by the experiences of the Windrush Generation. It is estimated that there are 500,000 people living in the UK who were born in Commonwealth countries that arrived in the UK before 1971. As a result the UK government does not contain full sets of documentation for all of its residents.

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Open source project leader at SIA Debora Comparin commented in a release that: “This initiative is all about making a difference for governments and implementing bodies across the world. It not only reflects how fast the identity market is maturing, but also the commitment of its major players to solving legacy proprietary challenges.”

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The SIA API will sit on top of government ID ecosystems which often comprise of a civil registers containing births and marriages. A civil identification which holds censuses data, biometrics and lastly a functional register which consists of information on passports and licenses.

SIA said it is solution architecture, vendor and technology-agnostic and capable of allowing systems to talk across heterogenous systems.

Open Source

The open source API, which will be published on GitHub for broad availability, brings together these registers without having to replace the systems they are constructed on.

The API will sit on top and enables non-compatible systems to communicate by defining a set of rules and services.

It will define which data is shared by each service, it also will standardise the format information is recorded. Once a baby is born the civil register will send the name and date of birth to civil identification database, which then creates a unique identifier for the new-born and exchanges this with the other databases.

The open source nature of the project means that governments do not have to be concerned with vendor lock in if they chose to adopt the system.

Dr Joseph J. Atick, Executive Chairman of the ID4Africa Movement comment in an emailed statement that: “A poll of delegates during the recent Annual Meeting of the ID4Africa Movement identified vendor lock-in as the biggest concern for those tasked with delivering national ID schemes.”

He added that: “As the ID market matures, governments and implementing bodies must be free to select the most appropriate solutions without commercial or technical restrictions. The SIA’s Open Source API is a key enabler and a major step towards harmonising identity schemes across Africa.”

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