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When I left Somalia in 1981, it took me (or those trying to help me) 3 years to get a passport… 3 years (am not joking) and then only to get a passport with the wrong DOB, because there was age limit etc to get a passport not to mention all the other horrible reasons and excuses of those times gone by.

But in Somalia of 2018 , How many times have you been asked who you are, what is your age, occupation etc.? These questions are often required to be answered and supported by proof in order to gain access to various services such as: Booking a flight,Opening a Bank account, Purchasing goods online, Entering some God knows why it is important office, Applying for a job, … and many more; same problems different times and different reasons…;-(

Anyway times are a changing. This article is a background briefing and hope might attract the attention of many in the Somali ICT sector, as well as decision makers in the government.

According to the World Bank, “About 2.4 billion people in the world today lack official identification (ID), including children up to the age of 14 whose birth has never been registered and many women in poor rural areas of Africa and Asia”. These people cannot satisfactory prove their identity to authorities. Therefore such people often cannot travel freely and cannot legally own a property, while also being exposed to crime, corruption and slavery.

Proof of identity issues can also affect wealthy people and big organizations. The key questions is how and when do life changes (address change, ownership status) are recorded by authorities? How much time is spent on these procedures? This is because certain regulations must be followed by organizations under specific areas like: Anti-money laundering, Know-your-customer, Ultimate beneficial ownership.

Following these regulations include legal and regulatory costs and hassles. According to the 2016 Global Survey on Trade Finance, 90% of businesses responding the survey pointed to anti-money laundering as the most significant obstacle to trade.  Other than these regulations, repetitive need to register to various websites make people use the same passwords for different purposes.

BLOCKCHAIN SOLUTIONS

Blockchain can keep personal information secure and private but shareable on a trusted network. Certain information could only be available to certain parties which need access. The digital identity holder could share via his/her private key certain information to a party which needs to verify who the person is. For example, a digital token would allow an individual to verify his/her age in order to enter an office or open a bank account. Ultimately, these solutions could be built on mobile apps… which is not a rocket science as many Somali undergraduate students are now capable of coding this.

Benefits for consumers :  Convenience and ease for accessing public services and any other services which require proof of identification, Better data management, Improved privacy protection, Control of personal data, Benefits for businesses, Eliminate risk of providing services to malicious people, Eliminate costs and time associated with verifying identity of customers, Better compliance management and monitoring, Benefits for regulators, Standardized and efficient process, Increased efficiency in auditing procedures, compliance control and monitoring of activities, For an interesting use case, search for BITNATION’s partnership with Estonia’s e-residency service.

At the end of the day, digital-self sovereignty would be the ideal solution.Digital self-sovereignty exists if:

  • Individuals, instead of central authorities, control their private keys which allow them to demonstrate ownership of documents and assets to a party which wishes to validate the identity and the status of the individual
  • Third parties cannot access and verify data without the consent of the individual

https://bitsonblocks.net/2017/05/17/a-gentle-introduction-to-self-sovereign-identity/

Such a solution enables owners of official records to present them to third parties (e.g. to a bank, to an airport), without relying to a central provider in order to access, view, share or validate these records

In order for such a system to work, the records issued on a blockchain would contain the public key of the record owners for identification purposes. At the same time record owners will control their own private key which will allow them to share the records with any party they wish, without being dependent from any vendor.This looks like it is feasible via a mobile app as it is capable of generating private keys, sending public keys to issuers, and hold digital records linking them with the corresponding private key.  Learning Machine’s Blockcerts is the first open-source mobile wallet to enable digital self-sovereignty.

For more information on Blockchain project for Somalia am working on, please contact me on mi@ayuub.org

Reference: Andreas Vlachos,  Academic Coordinator Officer of the Blockchain Initiative at University of Nicosia