World Bank competition seeking digital ID projects for the most vulnerable nears end

Grow digital ID system for emergency and reap long term rewards, World Bank says

World Bank initiative ID4D next week will announce winners of a competition to solve digital ID inclusivity problems experienced by vulnerable populations worldwide.

ID4D, which means identification for development, set up its so-called Mission Billion Challenge with two goals.

First, its leaders want to find the best ways to make getting an ID safe in a COVID-19 world while still maintaining the ID system’s integrity. Second, they are looking for governments to guarantee electronic authentication mechanisms are accessible to vulnerable populations, including those in low-connectivity areas.

Having a national digital ID makes it more likely that the holder will be more likely to get government services. And offering digital IDs tends to boost a nation’s economy by drawing otherwise excluded populations into society.

There are almost as many challenges to national digital ID distributions as there are countries. The United States, for example, must first deal with a significant population that sees a dark conspiracy or even religious fears in a national ID.

But in poorer and more remote regions, the hurdles are more concrete — people might have little or no digital infrastructure.

Six global finalists have been chosen, and the winners will be announced September 21. Cash prizes totaling $150,000 will distributed.

Among the notable submission is one from Special Olympics Nigeria. In her video entry, Ibiyemi Ayeni makes the case that Special Olympians are a prime argument for the potential of digital IDs to change lives.

The organization’s athletes are likely invisible to the Nigerian government because they are dependent on others for care or assistance, because they suffer meager incomes and because most people have low expectations for them as functioning members of society. There are 3 million people with intellectual disabilities in Nigeria who do not have national IDs, according to Ayeni.

Special Olympics Nigeria’s entry is more about raising awareness about the plight and potential of people with disabilities than about technology, and about working with partners to increase participation in ID programs.

Another entry, submitted by Mastercard and digital ID services company Trust Stamp. Przemek Praszczalek, an engineer with Mastercard, described a service the two organizations have created. Rather than storing biometric data of people, biometric tokens are used, Praszczalek said.

Emma Lindley, chief commercial officer at TrustStamp and co-founder of Women in Identity, said the service works on phones with cameras, which become part of an open ecosystem for identity verification.

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