I don’t know what it may sound like to you, but to me, I remember something in a book written by a man named John, that was along the lines of referring to something like an issued universal identity being needed for any and all commerce.
Last year Microsoft joined ID2020, a global Alliance whose goal is to create universal digital identities for everyone. What are the social, economic and ethical implications of such an initiative?
Our digital activity increasingly parallels our real-world activity. Participation in the modern economy, the ability to buy and sell, attain employment, healthcare, social services and more are virtually impossible without a digital identity. In May of 2016, at the United Nations Headquarters in NY, ID2020, an alliance of governments, non-profits, academia, over 150 private sector companies and 11 United Nations agencies collaborated on how to provide a unique digital identity to everyone on the planet.
Most coverage of the ID2020 Alliance focuses on its noble objective to provide digital identities to the over one billion refugees, women, children and others without any form of identification. The message of providing digital identification for this “invisible” portion of the earth’s population to enable their participation in society places a human face over the true mission. It also creates a rallying point that this open alliance hopes other entities will, like Microsoft, embrace and become a part of this global effort.
The fundamental mission of creating a universal identification system that incorporates every person on the globe, using modern technology and the support of various governments, financial institutions and more is the goal hidden behind the humanitarian cause.
The ID2020 Alliance and its 2030 goal
According to the Alliance’s Governance material “by 2030 it aims to have facilitated the scaling of a safe, verifiable, persistent digital identity system, consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals” agreed upon by the United Nations.” It’s short-term focus toward that goal is the development and testing of the best technological solutions for digital identity; and working with governments and other entities in their implementation. The focus on the 1.5 billion people without identification is part of that short-term vision.
The long-term vision revolves around the Alliances “Case for Action” which states a convergence of trends provides an unprecedented opportunity to make a coordinated, concerted push towards the goal of universal digital identity. Those trends include political accord among United Nations members, growing global connectivity, emerging technologies and global calls for a new model of identity.
- Political Unity: In 2015 all United Nations countries made a global commitment to provide legal identity for everyone by 2030.
- Global connectivity: Smart device proliferation allows new registration methods and enables consistent interaction with identity data.
- Emerging technology: Block-chain technology, like that used with Bitcoin, and into which Microsoft has invested to create a decentralized id (DID) makes secure and verifiable tech accessible to the masses.
- New Identity Model: Consumers want a seamless and secure digital experience.
Microsoft, in a recent announcement regarding using blockchain technology for decentralized identification further articulated its support of this initiative stating, “Each of us needs a digital identity we own, one which securely and privately stores all elements of our digital identity.”