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June 20, 2017

Accenture, Microsoft look to give refugees a digital identity with blockchain

One-sixth of the world’s population cannot prove that they exist.

By Ellie Burns

A Digital identity prototype has been developed by Accenture and Microsoft as part of a humanitarian project to provide legal ID to more than 1.1 billion people around the world, as well as seven million refugees, by 2020.

Unveiled at the second summit of ID2020, a consortium promoting the United Nation’s 2030 goal of providing legal ID for everyone, the prototype combines blockchain technology with biometric information such as fingerprints and retina scans in order to create a legal identity.

The prototype plays off the strengths of both companies – Accenture’s expertise developing and deploying large-scale biometric systems, alongside Microsoft Azure’s global scale, flexibility and security.

Running on Azure, the prototype is a sophisticated decentralised, or “distributed,” database architecture, maintained by multiple, trusted parties on the blockchain, eliminating the need for a central authority. The prototype does not store any personally identifiable information, instead tapping into existing “off-chain” systems when the individual user grants access.Accenture, Microsoft look to give refugees a digital identity with blockchain

“People without a documented identity suffer by being excluded from modern society,” said David Treat, a managing director in Accenture’s global blockchain business. “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.”

The prototype, when operational, will give refugees an ID which can be presented via an app on their smart phones. This can be presented at borders to prove where they are coming from and that they qualify for aid. The app could also give displaced people the ability to share their identities when needing to access services like education and healthcare.

“We believe that identity is one of the most important needs in international development and an area where Microsoft and the private sector are uniquely positioned to contribute,” said Yorke Rhodes, global business strategist at Microsoft.

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“We are thrilled to work with Accenture and bring Microsoft Azure’s global scale, flexibility and security to support ID2020 and make progress on this critical societal need.”

The prototype could go a long way in providing people proof that they actually exist – something many of us take for granted. In fact, around 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.

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