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African Conservation Challenge: digital identity to foster trusted community engagement

African Conservation Challenge: digital identity to foster trusted community engagement

We’re excited to announce the launch of our latest social purpose initiative – an African Conservation Challenge exploring the use of digital identities to help foster authentic, trusted, dignified online dialogue between communities and other stakeholders engaged in conservation across the Southern Africa region. The Challenge is open to individuals and organisations based anywhere in Africa, and comes with a prize of $15,000.   Background Historically, rural voices have been either missing or largely ignored in much of the debate and decision making around the management of natural resources, particularly wildlife, in Africa. It is widely acknowledged, however, that the involvement of local people is critical to successful conservation outcomes. This Challenge seeks to support the development of an online platform that will engage a variety of stakeholders. These include government officials, conservation leaders, members of the public and, crucially, local communities living close to protected areas or whose land is wildlife habitat, to ensure trusted, respectful, verified and non-confrontational debate on critical issues that affect them, and the policies and programmes of the wider conservation sector. The overall objective is to help communities take their rightful place as equal partners in policy negotiation, development and implementation processes. We hope to amplify their voices to ensure informed decision-making at national, regional and international levels that reflects the demands and rights of rural people to manage their wildlife. It is believed that an online forum based on the concept of ‘verified identities’ of all participants will help foster authenticity, trust and raise confidence among participants that they are engaging with genuine Southern African community members in their own words, based on their lived realities and experiences as equals at the table.   African Conservation Challenge: the details As part of our Social Purpose Strategy,  Yoti will manage the running of a Conservation Challenge to support the development of a trusted online forum where these critical debates can safely take place. The Challenge will be open to web developers across Africa, and promoted through partners such as AfriLabs, the primary membership organisation for innovation labs in the region. African organisations (or individuals) will be invited to submit a short proposal outlining the proposed functionality and layout of the website. We appreciate that under normal circumstances any developer would have at least one conversation with their client before firming up a proposal. As a result, entries submitted for this Challenge will be considered preliminary ideas only, and will be judged as such. The final site design and functionality will be determined following discussions between the winning entry, and Resource Africa and Yoti. First and foremost we are looking for interesting, compelling proposals based on the information provided. In good company We’re really happy to begin this initiative with the support of some key organisations in Africa. Kenechukwu C. Chukwu, Member Services Manager of AfriLabs, told us, “This African Conservation Challenge is a great opportunity to support the inclusion of local communities in policy negotiation, development, and other national and regional issues. As a network keen on impacting the African ecosystem, AfriLabs is excited to contribute to, and support, this initiative.” Additionally, Moreangels Mbizah, Resource Africa Programmes Manager, believes, “For far too long a technology gap has crippled the ability of local communities to participate in public discussion that informs policies that directly affect their lives. This platform will help open up democratic space for respectful and meaningful engagement where rural Africans can express their views, perspectives, and concerns on their own rights, on their own terms.”    Competition next steps If you would like to take part, please have a read of the African Conservation Challenge overview and submit an entry before the competition closes on the 30th May 2021. For further background reading, we recommend this excellent Community Engagement Framework by African People & Wildlife  and this very useful paper on Community Engagement in Biodiversity Conservation by Chemonics and Arizona State University.

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The Digital Identity Toolkit

The Digital Identity Toolkit

Digital identity is a relatively new but rapidly evolving sector that can and will affect many aspects of our everyday lives. Digital identities verify and authenticate someone’s identity. They can then be used to access a wide range of services and opportunities, from health and education services, voting and travelling, through to online shopping and dating. Governments and the private sector are developing and implementing digital identity solutions, and they’re likely to become increasingly common in the future. While there is already a lot of information on this topic, much of it is in lengthy, technical reports that hasn’t been collated into a simple format that non-technical people can understand. We hope this Toolkit can help close that gap. This Toolkit has been designed to help you find everything you need to know about digital identity. Before producing it, we spoke with individuals and non-profits around the world to get a sense of what they’d like to know about digital identities. The audience for this Toolkit are members of the public, non-profits, entrepreneurs, developers, journalists and academics who want to learn more about digital identity and how digital identities might be relevant to them in their lives or work. Read Section 1: Toolkit IntroductionRead Section 2: Identity BasicsRead Section 3: Digital Identity ExplainedRead Section 4: Case Studies

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Social Purpose In A Time Of Crisis

Social Purpose In A Time Of Crisis

Is the true measure of a company how it responds in a crisis, or what it does the rest of the time? With a global pandemic raging, and one of the largest global movements for racial equality taking hold, now might be a better time than any to find out. This paper looks at the emergence of social purpose in the corporate world and how companies have responded to Covid and the death of George Floyd – two of the most significant events of recent times.   Contents: Corporate social responsibility. Defining mission and vision statements. Corporate responses to BLM. Social purpose at Yoti. Appendix A: Accuracy results for Yoti Age Scan. Appendix B: Examples of Covid responses Read Social Purpose in a Time of Crisis

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Celebrating International Identity Day 2020

Celebrating International Identity Day 2020

Today marks International Identity Day. It falls on September 16th in recognition of Sustainable Development Goal 16.9 , which commits the international community to providing a means of identity to all by 2030. As we celebrate today, it’s worth reminding ourselves what it means to not be able to prove who you are.  In the developed world, we’re used to providing identification even for routine transactions such as opening a mobile phone account at a local store. We can readily produce a combination of photo ID, proof of bank details and a utility bill to confirm our address. We take it for granted that we can prove who we are when we need to, but that’s not the case for over a billion people in other parts of the world. Substitute mobile phones for education, financial services, healthcare or social services for you and your family, and not being able to prove who you are can have serious consequences. As a result, the global development community has turned its attention to the one-in-seven people on the planet who “don’t officially exist” in many eyes because they lack a formal identity through any easily-presentable paperwork.  In recognition of the scale of the problem, identity was included within the United Nations’ Social Development Goals (SDGs), launched in 2015 with the goal of providing legal identity for all by 2030 including free birth registrations. Around the world, 250 million children under five didn’t have their birth registered, and in sub-Saharan Africa alone over 50 per cent of children remain unregistered by their fifth birthday. If the tap feeding this unregistered birth epidemic can be turned off, then we can at least stop the problem getting any bigger.  Not having something as straightforward as a birth certificate can be profound. Thirty-two countries in sub-Saharan Africa require a birth certificate to access education, 16 require one to access social support, and six to access healthcare. In Indonesia a birth certificate is the only form of legal identity, yet 58 per cent of the poorest children don’t have their births registered. As they get older, how do they claim rights to things like land, inheritance and nationality? International Identity Day is designed to highlight each of these issues and help rally the global humanitarian and tech communities to develop solutions. At Yoti, since our founding in 2014 we have been fully committed to the concept of digital identity for all. Our commercial activities are centred around online tools and apps that allow people to prove who they are, whilst our social purpose activities support the building of solutions for those without mobile devices, or without access to the Internet, in less developed countries. You can read more about these efforts on our website here, or in this downloadable Social Purpose Strategy deck.   Written by Ken Banks our Head of Social Purpose

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Social purpose in a time of crisis

Social purpose in a time of crisis

Events over recent weeks have been unprecedented. At Yoti, we have been inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and wholeheartedly support calls for the end of inequality and exclusion wherever it exists and in whatever form it takes.  Racial equality is very much an issue of identity, and being a digital identity company the issues at hand are more pertinent to us than for many other companies. As signatories of the Safe Face Pledge, we have made a public commitment addressing harmful bias in artificial intelligence technology and embedded transparency into our business practices.  Today, we are releasing a paper which looks at our own successes and shortcomings, in addition to a wider assessment of social purpose in the corporate world during these challenging times.  More specifically, the paper examines the emergence of social purpose in the corporate world, how businesses define their missions and visions, and how companies have responded to two of the greatest events of recent times – the Coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests. An extensive list of examples of responses from companies can be found in the appendix. You can download a copy of Social Purpose in a Time of Crisis here. As a company, we have made some progress on diversity and inclusion, but it’s clear we need to do a lot more. Today, we reaffirm our commitment to accelerating the work we have already started.  As CEO of Yoti, I am proud of our achievements over the years that have seen us build genuine social purpose into our business. As a B Corp, we meet detailed standards of performance which are benchmarked globally and our Guardian Council play an active role in ensuring our business and products serve everybody. We’re committed to eliminating bias from our biometric technology and take a transparent approach to publishing the accuracy results across skin tone and gender. All that said, the Black Lives Matter protests have forced businesses around the world to look more closely at their own records and despite what we have achieved, our own period of reflection has shown that we have fallen short in a number of areas. As CEO I am committed to putting these right, and today we make a statement of intent towards that goal.

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People ask me: What do you mean by ‘digital identity’?

People ask me: What do you mean by ‘digital identity’?

This is the third field diary entry from Paz, one of our Digital Identity Fellows. Her year-long research project is focused on unravelling what digital identity, and identity in general, means to the unemployed and under-employed individuals receiving support from public job centres and local labour organisations in Gran Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata in Argentina. ***** The image at the top of this article is a photo I took of a piece of paper with some phone contacts I was given at a public job centre office. They had ‘recycled’ people’s ID photocopies. I walked away with all the personal data of a person I didn’t know.  When conducting interviews, I try to avoid defining identity or digital identity. Providing definitions, at least at the beginning, might create a barrier with the interviewees, some of whom might suspect that “I am an expert and I only want you to confirm what I already know”. I do not want such a barrier, precisely because of the exploratory nature of my research; the knowledge I am looking for is in the interviewees. This is the case with all the interviewees, including those with no formal technology background whatsoever, or those with vulnerable backgrounds, or those looking for a job. More often than not, however, I am being increasingly asked for a definition. My response has been to paraphrase definitions in ways that can be easy to grasp, and which are also relatable and open enough so that people can be confident that their own knowledge and experiences are relevant.  I am doing my fieldwork in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and a full-scale quarantine in Argentina. My interviews are now conducted online or over the phone, which makes it even more important for my narrative to be compelling and to elicit a nuanced conversation (that doesn’t end up turning into COVID-19 coping strategies).  In this post I’ll first provide the formal definitions, and then the informal ones I am mostly using during interviews.  Key concepts Identity I do not provide a clear-cut definition, and I believe I am excused for this because identity is too much of a complex and ever changing concept. As Florian Coulmas rightly explains:  “Individual identities are complex structures combining inherited features with various group memberships, loyalties, values, belief systems, and fashions. These structures adjust to changing circumstances and so does the concept of identity itself. Elements may be discarded or remixed, new ones added on occasion. Hence a definitive definition is not available”. Despite the lack of an all-encompassing definition (as explained, for example, by Aleks Krotoski and Ben Hammersley in Identity and Agency) there is a list of things ‘identity’ might refer to: the way one is recognized as an entity; how we define and express our self individually or collectively; the sum ownership of the tangible and intangible assets of the self;  and the sum of self-referential claims or claims about others made by a digital subject (a concern for computer science). Digital identity Related of course, but different from ‘identity’, ‘digital identity’ seems a little less complex in that it refers to ‘all of the above but in a digital format’. Or perhaps not.  According to Krotoski & Hammersley, digital identity can be defined as: “A set of data that acts as a unique reference to a specific object”, which “can be a person, a thing, a concept, a group, or any other definable entity”. Digital identity’s main role is authentication: verifying whether an entity is who (or what) it is believed to be, and worthy of trust. And in the case of digital identity this authentication is binary: either completely true or completely false. A digital identity relating to a person can be made up of a number of attributes (data) depending on what it is needed for, and could include one or more of: an email address, digital photos, usernames and passwords, biometric data, or any other information that can be accessed digitally (Yoti toolkit). Our email address, for example, can be our digital identity within a specific email system, but it can also work as the digital identity we have on another, unrelated service (Krotoski & Hammersley) (like another platform for which we use our email to sign in).  Your digital identity can be verified using documents or other data such as biometrics or identification credentials, which can confirm you are who you say you are, in legal terms. But not all of our digital identities need to be verified in this way, only those that might be used to access services from governments (e.g healthcare) and the private sector (e.g banking).   Online identity Then we have a third, and equally relevant concept: ‘online identity’: “While digital identity answers the question, ‘Are we sure that x is y?’, online identity continues the statement, ‘I, y, consist of a, b, and c’.” (Krotoski & Hammersley). Online identity relates closely to the offline definition most of us have of personal identity or self-identity: it is the expression of this self-identity as mediated by computers and the internet. And importantly, this expression necessitates editing, a process that is culturally and technologically constrained (or limited):  “Online identities are not limitless in their expressive abilities. Unlike the self-signals shared between strangers on the street, each identity marker on the web is proactively constructed using the tools available, and online identity is not without systems and structures that constrain the individual, both socially and technologically” (Krotoski & Hammersley). The use of a tool to build an online identity (for example, a profile on Facebook) reduces our ability to decide which parts of our online identity(ies) we want to express, and how we want to express them. The choices, and therefore agency, are really in the hands of the designers of the platforms; choices that are political and cultural. We do not have the control we are often told we have. The designers of online services directly define the way we build our online selves.   Digital identity and our fluid online identity As seen, digital identity is necessary to an online identity, but they are not the same:  “Digital identities are fixed and binary; online identities are fluid, and contain multitudes” (Krotoski & Hammersley). The social sciences have long considered an individual’s self-concept as an evolving process, in which we discard aspects that no longer fit us in a given context (Krotoski & Hammersley). This ability to include and discard, allowing our identities to evolve, is essential to what we call ‘agency’. The more constrained we are to do that, the less ‘agents’ we are. The problem is: “the nature of some contemporary constructions of digital identity (notably, for search or social networking applications) does not account for this evolution. Rather, it incorporates all aspects of the self (self-reported or algorithmically generated) and delivers it upon request”. Identities are treated as trackable, unchanged, stable. Thus the need to incorporate the nuances of our experiences into computer constructions of identity (Krotoski & Hammersley).  Such ‘nuance’ might prove even more vital during the processes of editing our online identities, and creating new digital identities, when looking for a job. Among vulnerable groups such editing might be crucial, as career/training paths are not the ‘traditionally expected college-graduate-school’ and discrimination takes place regarding issues such as where people live, where they went to school, what their technical qualifications are, and so on.  The word “Respect”, written by adults and young adults at CEPLA, also called Casa Caracol, a community center in Mar del Plata My narrative during interviews At the start of my interviews I provide many of these same definitions, but make them a little less formal: Identity is something complex, yet we all know what our identities are. We know they relate to things we cannot change (like the country or social group we were born into), but also to other things that can change, like our values and beliefs that change over time. There is sameness, but also difference. We are and are not our 5 year-old self. It is a complex concept we all need to grasp.  Digital identity is something rather different. Digital identities exist because we also live in a digital world. A digital identity is a set of data that defines a specific object: a person, a group or any other thing. This data, or digital identity, is only used to verify someone or something is who or what it says it is; the answer can only be yes or no. There are no in-betweens. When entering Facebook, for example, you are required to verify you are “Paty X” by entering your username (which is your email) and a password. So, in this case your digital identity on Facebook is made up of two attributes, your username and your password. If you enter the wrong password the system determines that you are not Paty X. Period.  Online identity, on the other hand, refers to our ‘fluid’ or changing identities: it is not about “are you or not who you say you are?”, but more of “yes, I am Paty and I am also this and that, extrovert and artist, activist and organizer, and I currently maintain a Facebook page about sharing tools we don’t use too often with our neighbours”. Our online identities are the expression – in the digital world – of our offline and nuanced identities.  So far, interviewees have added a lot more nuance to the digital identity and online identity definitions. This proves that providing simple and informal definitions can help set the stage for a discussion without competing against – or overshadowing – the interviewees’ own understandings. One example of such nuance refers to the fact many people share their digital devices with other people, often family members. More on this in future posts.  Lastly, just to mention: in order to compensate for the lack of in person clues or contextual information during the now-online interviews I am adding two research methods: photo/video/voice elicitation and story completion, which I will also describe in more detail in another post. 

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