New initiative aims to deliver on the promise of blockchain for identity

A view of the 3rd annual Blockchain Summit 2017 on Necker Island hosted by The Bitfury Group. Photo by: David Paul Morris / The Bitfury Group

Over the weekend, during a blockchain summit organized on Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island, the World Identity Network was launched. The new initiative aims to leverage distributed ledger technology, better known as blockchain, to catalyze progress toward universal identification. And while the launch may have taken place at a luxury private island, the aim is to benefit the 2 billion people living without recognized identification documents.

“The use cases of blockchain and distributed ledger technologies are diverse, with stronger value-add in developing countries,” Mariana Dahan, a former World Bank official and driving force behind the Identification for Development agenda who will lead the World Identity Network initiative, told Devex. “Blockchain’s disintermediating potential is being tried out for land property titles, finance for small and medium-sized enterprises, e-governance, voting, and the big one, digital identity. Much of this has the potential to leapfrog billions of people into a new era — in parallel to the way that mobile phones helped them leapfrog over landlines.”

After her return from Necker Island, Dahan explained to Devex that while currency changes are the most widely known use case for blockchain technology, the topics discussed at the blockchain summit extended to global development.

Blockchain is often conflated with bitcoin, the digital currency. But simply put: it is an unchangeable system of recordkeeping that is seeing a growing use well beyond financial transactions. Data is copied on multiple servers or computers and encrypted into blocks, which are then linked by hashes to previous blocks. This allows the system to reject any non-valid transactions. On a public blockchain, the data that is stored can be seen and verified by…

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