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MOSIP President makes a diagnosis of Connect 2024, outlines future focus

“The event went far beyond our expectations”
MOSIP President makes a diagnosis of Connect 2024, outlines future focus
 

The President of MOSIP, Prof S. Rajagopalan, says the maiden MOSIP Connect conference which took place early this month in Addis Ababa recorded milestone achievements, but there is greater promise for future editions of the event which aims to enable countries implement inclusive digital ID projects. He made the remarks in an interview granted to Biometric Update after the conference.

Prof Rajagopalan talked about the high and low points of the MOSIP Connect, how they intend to sustain their ecosystem of partners, MOSIP’s short and long-term projects focus, and a hint on how the next edition of the event would look like.

From March 5-7, over 400 delegates from nearly 30 countries, and over 50 commercial partners, gathered in the Ethiopian capital to share thoughts on a wide array of issues related to identity.

Although being the first of its kind, MOSIP Connect 2024 has set the stage for a stronger movement towards inclusive digital identity as a lever of socio-economic development, according to its organizers.

“This event went beyond our expectations. Our objective of organizing it was to connect people from governments, the commercial ecosystem, civil society, developers, research and development and others. That’s why we even named it as MOSIP Connect,” says Prof.

“We got several companies which exhibited their products here because we connected them. if they want to enter into partnerships or collaborations, it’s up to them. Similarly, many countries were here and had time to see many demonstrations of products, platforms and solutions. They can make use of that because they are already connected. So, we wanted to create an event in which we can connect people who, otherwise, may not have been connected.”

“Everybody met everybody else…”

He notes that MOSIP Connect was a place where everybody met everybody else and “that’s why we think it was a great success because 500+ people, travelling from 26 countries, went through three days.”

“Almost all the continents were represented here and people had the opportunity to see about 60 exhibitors. That way, it was a great success and MOSIP Connect achieved its objectives.”

The success notwithstanding, it wasn’t just about connecting for the sake of it, says Prof. Rajagopalan. “We are building very critical and strategic systems for the people of different countries. We are not here for general purpose software; we are not here for financial services software. We are here for government-to-people interactions. All our exhibitors had demonstrations on what government does to people. Our main target is how can we improve the efficiency of governments in delivering services to the people,” he tells Biometric Update.

“Identity is a key cornerstone in all of that. How can we make the whole process [of service delivery] inclusive by connecting the illiterate, poor and remote people to government? That was the purpose of this conference; you connect, then discover how you can improve the lives of people, then you go and create. To my mind, the discovery part of it is about what governments can do, along with our ecosystem partners.”

Connecting the partners is one thing, and sustaining the partnership is another. To the President of MOSIP, this is something they are thinking about and there are three mechanisms to attaint his goal.

“The first is to have this annual meeting. We will have a meeting every year on MOSIP Connect. Sometimes, it may be on focussed themes, sometimes it may be general. We’ll also rotate it among countries,” he says.

Secondly, he mentions: “Through our media channels, we’ll be providing opportunities for our partners to showcase their work. We have a market place on our website where the ecosystem partners can openly say what they are doing. They can even put up small videos and learning material. They have that possibility on our market place.”

The third mechanism, he says, will be constant conversations with governments and participation in other identity-related forums. “With the countries we interact, we have two meetings a year. Apart from that, we also have country conversations twice a year. We have those kinds of opportunities we create. These are the ways through which we work, and we are also participating in other events where most of our ecosystem partners are there, like Identity Week, ID4Africa, and many other fora.”

Long-term sustainability

During the MOSIP Connect event, the notion of “co-creation” was echoed severally.  This means MOSIP combining efforts with its different partners to come up with solutions that are vital for solving societal problems.

To Prof. Rajagopalan, this approach is crucial for MOSIP’s long-term existence and impact. “It is very important for our long-term sustainability. You have to understand that we are a university. And for a university to sustain anything on a long-term basis, you cannot solely depend on charity and philanthropic support. So, we need to build creative capacity across the world so that even if, for some reason, things change, the system should be sustained,” he says.

“Countries interface with the people in the provision of services and that has to be sustained. So, we have to have the technology that can be sustainable for centuries. One way of doing that is to co-create not only with our commercial partners, but also with universities. We are trying to establish a centre of excellence in the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Morocco, near Marrakesh. We are also talking to some universities here in Addis Ababa and in Manilla. The idea is we’ll jointly discuss what should be their roadmap, how they will help with ecosystem partners. We will co-create solutions with ecosystem partners, universities and governments. Governments have capacity to create.”

MOSIP’s immediate focus

Prof. Rajagopalan says while their focus over the years has been on how to help counties build identity systems, that will continue, but with their reflections tilting a bit toward how they can tailor solutions for countries with really small populations.

“There are countries with less than one million population, some island nations. Comoros for example. We also have Belize which is not an island nation but a very small country. We have to think about solutions for small countries. Can the system implemented in Philippines which is 110 million people or Morrocco which is 36 million, be done in a country with less than 350,000 people? Per capita cost will go up and countries may not be able to afford,” the MOSIP leader shares.

“Our immediate focus is going to be on how to bring a solution on identity for very small countries. We are trying to see how we can bring down the cost of issuing ID for those small nations. They too want to use digital technology. We can’t say because they have just 200,000 people, they should be left out of digital technology.”

OpenG2P is another product MOSIP will be dedicating some of its efforts and resources to developing. That, in addition to leveraging its credentialing services – INJI and eSignet.

“We’ll be focussing on OpenG2P which you must have seen. How do people use ID based on open source to drive efficiency for government-to-people deliveries? We are looking at government-to-people payments, healthcare programs, social protection programs, etc. That will continue,” he mentions.

“In addition to that, we are also looking at providing credentialling services so that people don’t have to depend on centralized software or rely on internet connectivity because in a lot of countries, connectivity is poor.  They can do an offline, decentralized provision of identity documents and authentication for access to services. We are working on a digital credentials stack. You may have seen INJI and eSignet. eSignet is now rolled out in Cambodia. Our work is about how we can use ID with more efficiency, more accessibility, and inclusion.”

Sneak peek into next edition of MOSIP Connect

Already, the MOSIP team is looking ahead to the next edition of MOSIP Connect, which will take place in a yet-to-be-chosen country. “One sure thing is we’ll have it every year. There’s no doubt about that. The event also will not be restricted to only one location. We are in Addis Ababa today, next year, it’ll be somewhere else. We’ll find the location and sort out many other things. Six months before the event, we’ll let the world know what we are going to do,” Prof. Rajagopalan assures.

“Connect will still be the focus, but we might change the format a bit. We might make it thematic so that ‘Create’ gets as much attention as Connect. It will be ‘Connect, Converse Create.’ We may have more sessions on how to create solutions or demonstrate more of the existing solutions.”

This year, Prof. admits there were many issues up for discussion, but for so short a time. The possibility of having specific themes for the subsequent editions is very much under consideration, he says.

“There were a lot of conversations here, even if the time allocated for them was a bit rushed. There were so many ideas here – ID, payments, social protection, people processes, government-to-people, secure biometrics, and so on. Sometimes, I felt it may have been an overload for them, because we didn’t organise it around a theme. We had all themes involved,” Prof. states.

“Maybe, we will focus on particular themes in the next edition, so that people can think and reflect better. It was a good thing in one sense that people went for conversations they were more interested in, and no one got bored. But on the other hand, there was no sufficient time to go to the depth of the issues. So, I have a feeling that three days were also not enough. We need to rethink and see how to do better in the next edition.”

It’s worth noting that at the close of the event in Addis Ababa, MOSIP asked participants for feedback on the conference in order to make changes where necessary in the next edition.

To those who have heard the MOSIP story and hope to be part of, Prof. has this word for them: “Our future is in our hands. It’s not in anybody else’s. We have sufficient strength and capacity to design our own future. So, people should have high hopes and believe in their strengths, that they can design and implement solutions which will help their countries.”

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