Last year, Microsoft joined the 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 activities are more and more consistent with our real activities. Participation in the modern economy, the ability to buy and sell, get jobs, medical care, social services and much more is almost impossible without a digital identity.
In May 2016, at the United Nations headquarters in New York, ID2020, an alliance of governments, nonprofits, academia, more than 150 private sector companies and 11 United Nations agencies collaborated on how to ensure a unique digital identity for everyone on the planet. Most of the scope of the ID2020 alliance is focused on its noble goal of providing digital identification to more than one billion refugees, women, children and others without any form of identification.
The idea of providing digital identification of this “invisible” part of the world’s population to ensure their participation in society puts a human face on a true mission. It also creates a unifying point, which this Open Alliance hopes that other organizations, such as Microsoft, will accept and become part of this global effort. The fundamental mission of creating a universal identification system that includes every person on the globe, using modern technology and the support of various governments, financial institutions and much more, is the goal hidden behind the humanitarian cause.
Alliance ID2020 and its goal until 2030
According to the alliance’s guidance, “By 2030, it seeks to contribute to the expansion of a secure, verifiable and sustainable digital identification system in line with the Sustainable Development Goals” agreed by the United Nations. “This is a short-term focus on achieving this goal – developing and testing the best technology solutions for digital identification; and working with governments and other entities to implement them. The emphasis on 1.5 billion undocumented people is part of this short-term vision.
The long-term outlook is built around Case for Action alliances, which argue that convergence of trends provides an unprecedented opportunity for coordinated, coordinated progress towards the goal of universal digital identity. These trends include political consensus among United Nations members, the expansion of global ties, the advent of new technologies, and global calls for a new identity model.
– Political unity: in 2015, all countries of the United Nations committed themselves to a global commitment to ensure legal identity for all by 2030.
– Global connectivity: the proliferation of smart devices allows the use of new registration methods and ensures consistent interaction with credentials.
– New technologies: blockchain technology, for example, used with bitcoin, and in which Microsoft has invested in the creation of a decentralized id (DID), makes secure and verifiable technology available to the masses.
– New identification model: consumers want a seamless and secure digital experience.
Microsoft, in a recent announcement regarding the use of blockchain technology for decentralized identification, further stated its support for this initiative, saying: “Each of us needs the digital identity that we own, which securely and confidentially stores all the elements of our digital identity.”
Microsoft, blockchain and universal identifiers
In a statement confirming its position as a founding member of the ID2020 alliance, Microsoft shared that it, the developers and partners in the Alliance will cooperate on the basis of blockchain, an open source identification system. This system will ensure the compatibility of people, applications, products and services between cloud providers, other blockchains and organizations.
Microsoft’s goal is to help set universal and scalable standards for these decentralized digital identities using blockchain technology. In the blockchain, information exists as a common database that is consistently consistent. Blockchain data does not exist in a centralized location, but is located on millions of computers across the Internet. The Alliance uses this secure and virtually “elusive” system to create a decentralized system for identifying the world’s population.
If blockchains sound familiar, they should be. Wallet apps, such as those used to buy things with popular cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, are the user interface that most people associate with blockchain technology. This technology has secure identity management at its core. It is on this technology that Microsoft and the Alliance are developing applications for global identity management.
It’s about the global community and the economy
Mobile technology is becoming an increasingly important tool for confirming your identity in various transaction scenarios, including buying and selling goods online or in person, using public transport, opening hotel room doors, participating in amusement parks and much more. Our smartphones are currently the main portal, intricately intertwining our digital identity with our physical world. Recognizing this, GSMA, an alliance of nearly 800 mobile operators, seeks to simplify SIM registration by encouraging flexible approaches to identity verification requirements for IDPs so that they can access mobile, SIM-based energy services and wallets .
This inclusion of even those who are deprived of suffrage in the digital landscape is of utmost importance for the ID2020 Alliances to provide a universally accepted identification system for everyone on the planet. It is important to note that the purpose of this identification system is to create the basis for integrating the participation of world citizens in the global community and the universal digital economy. A robust and verifiable identity, like any digital transaction, is fundamental to this vision.
The Alliance emphasizes that digital identity is the cornerstone of international development, and believes that digital identity should be with a person from birth to death. This goal, pursued by global cooperation, raises many ethical issues.
As the digital landscape is becoming more common, the boundaries between the physical and the real world continue to blur. If the lack of digital identity within the current paradigm limits participation in the modern economy, then the absence of such a single global globally recognized system can completely impede participation.
If the goal of the alliance is a globally recognized Digital Identity for everyone from birth to death, will this become a global mandate?
How will this be implemented and by whom?
What will happen to those people who do not want to participate?
Will they be chased?
How will the implementation of identification develop with technologies that go beyond smartphones?
Will there be wearable devices, implants like the ones used in the Swedish metro, or will some form of digital tattoo become the norm?
As more and more transactions become digital and are built around a single global identity standard supported by Microsoft, the question of who will manage this evolving global community and economy becomes relevant.
Moreover, non-participants in this system will not be able to buy or sell goods or services.