Digital ID solutions: how the UN can help vulnerable populations

Friday, 18 August 2017

One cannot board a plane, open a bank account, or get a driver’s license without legal identification. Astonishingly, one sixth of the world’s population - disproportionally the most vulnerable, such as refugees - does not possess legal identification. It has a significant, negative impact on their quality of life.

The Department of Management’s Office of Information Communication Technology (OICT) is raising awareness about innovative personal identity technologies and how these can support the operations of the UN and its Member States, as well as contribute to solutions for those without access to traditional methods of providing their identification. 

The ID2020 Summit 2017, held at United Nations Headquarters on 19 June, brought together humanitarians and technologists to highlight the challenges 1.1 billion face because they lack documented proof of their identity, and to explore how to provide a universal digital identification for every person on the planet. 

Atefeh Riazi, Assistant Secretary-General and Chief Information Technology Officer, opened the ID2020 “Platform for Change” Summit: “We are committed to addressing the incredible challenge of identity, and to make sure that we use innovation and technology to address this issue in a scalable, secure, and sustainable manner.”

OICT, Accenture, Microsoft, and PricewaterhouseCoopers co-hosted the summit, which included participants from 150 private sector companies and 11 UN agencies.

Accenture and Microsoft demonstrated one identity prototype that would provide a person's information through an app. The solution is based on blockchain technology, which securely encrypts data. With the information stored in a database, even an individual without a mobile device could still be identified through fingerprints or iris scans.      

Ms. Riazi closed the summit: “This is a time when action and support of all people without an identity is urgently needed. Inaction in the face of compelling evidence is unacceptable.” 

A public-private partnership, ID2020 supports the Sustainable Development Goal (16.9) to provide legal identity for all, including birth registration, by 2030. In 2016, UNHQ hosted the inaugural ID2020 Summit.