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Ken Banks

Postponing the launch of our 2020 Digital Identity Fellowship Programme

Postponing the launch of our 2020 Digital Identity Fellowship Programme

This time last year, we had launched the Digital Identity Fellowship and we were in the middle of accepting applications for our first cohort of Fellows. By the time the application window closed we had received over 120 applications from over 30 countries – the majority in the Global South – providing us with some fascinating insight into the kinds of challenges, issues and opportunities that mattered most to the people closest to them. After a tough selection process Paz, Subhashish and Tshepo started their Fellowships last October and are now half-way through their work researching issues of human rights, exclusion and digital identity in Argentina, India and South Africa respectively. You can read more about their work and the progress they’re making here. Their latest Field Diary updates will be posted in the next couple of weeks. Until COVID-19 hit we were planning to announce the 2020 Programme and begin the process of inviting applicants for the second cohort of Fellows. As a result of the uncertainty of the many lockdowns around the world, and uncertainty around how long it will take before we can return to some kind of ‘normal’, we have made the difficult decision to delay the launch of the 2020 Programme until later in the year. In the meantime, we will work closely with the current Fellows and support them as they pivot their research away from fieldwork and in-person interviews towards more remote work.  For those of you who were eagerly awaiting the opportunity to submit applications to the 2020 Programme, we’re sorry about the delay but hope you understand the thinking behind it. Please watch this space and look for further announcements in the autumn – and stay safe in the meantime.  Thank you.

2 min read
Pledging our digital identity verification services free to organisations tackling the Covid-19 crisis

Pledging our digital identity verification services free to organisations tackling the Covid-19 crisis

Updated Friday 27th March 2020: Read more about how we can help organisations involved in the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic here. At Yoti, we have spent six years building a secure identity platform that makes it simpler and safer to prove who we are in our modern, digital world. We have always offered our digital identity app free to eligible charities and nonprofits, and for the next three months, we will be extending this commitment to any public health organisation, emergency service and community initiative tackling the Covid-19 crisis.  We want to help organisations under immense pressure to verify or authenticate staff, suppliers and individuals in a secure, private and scalable way.  Our robust identity-checking system is built on government-grade levels of security and will ensure that data privacy is maintained with the highest integrity during the current crisis. We are trusted as the official ID provider to the Government of Jersey and Improvement Service in Scotland, and are certified as an HM Government G-Cloud supplier.   Contactless, digital ID The Yoti app empowers individuals with a reusable digital ID that they can use on their phone. It has over 6 million global downloads and over 60,000 installs a month in the UK. It’s built with privacy at its core and enables individuals to securely and easily share just parts of their personal information with verified organisations and retain a full audit trail of any data sharing. Embracing digital IDs could be hugely beneficial in many aspects of the economy right now, such as in supermarkets where retail staff face possible contagion from stockpiling shoppers. Replacing paper and plastic identity documents with a contactless ID would minimise physical contact and risk. Yoti is already accepted for the sale of age-restricted goods in 12,000 convenience stores in the UK and can be used as a secure way of proving your identity online.   Our free integration support  Our technical support team is on hand to get organisations up and running as soon as possible, totally free of charge.  In addition to our digital identity app, Yoti has a wide range of verification and authentication technologies that we would like to make as affordable as possible to organisations fighting the coronavirus crisis. This includes our electronic signature platform, document verification solution and age estimation technology, which can be quickly deployed and scaled to high volumes. In its first year of use, Yoti has completed over 270 million age checks for organisations.  We hope that our easy-to-integrate technologies can assist organisations who need to bring their existing services online and help ease the pressure of this ongoing crisis. To get started immediately, please get in touch at covid19@yoti.com.

3 min read
Welcoming three more Partners to our Humanitarian Tech Support Programme

Welcoming three more Partners to our Humanitarian Tech Support Programme

Last month, we proudly announced the launch of our Humanitarian Tech Support Programme, a new initiative designed to support tech-focused startups focusing on global humanitarian problems. Using our unique blend of global development and digital identity experience, we have already started helping Lanterne in their mission to deliver a trusted, secure alert system to humanitarian fieldworkers in Afghanistan (over the last decade, more than 3,000 humanitarian workers were killed, injured or kidnapped in conflict zones around the world.) Today we are pleased to announce details of a further three Programme Partners.  People in Need People in Need helps people in emergencies – both in wartime and in areas affected by natural disasters – whilst focusing on places where it is difficult for people to break out of the vicious circle of poverty. Providing humanitarian assistance to victims of armed conflict abroad was the initial undertaking when People in Need was first set up in the 1990s. Over time, they began to deal with longer-term problems, such as shortage of safe drinking water, restricted access to good education, healthcare services, and environmental degradation. Today they have missions around the world supporting communities in places such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti. Yoti’s support will be focused on the ongoing development of Humansis, an open source web-based platform that humanitarian organisations use to ensure they reach their beneficiaries wherever they are, quickly and securely. According to James Happell, Humansis Product Owner, “People in Need are incredibly excited to be involved in Yoti’s Humanitarian Tech Support Programme. We are looking forward to finding solutions to the identification challenges that face the most vulnerable populations who we serve every day.” Bitprop Bitprop creates assets and income streams for underdeveloped markets by enabling investment into backyard rental property at a macro scale. Using innovative thinking and technology, Bitprop secures title deeds and manages rental income for those that need it most. They then attract investment from multiple sources and use it to help each homeowner secure their title (asset) and develop their property to secure income (rent) in a sustainable and replicable manner. Bitprop also manages the tenant sourcing and rental income for the homeowner and shares the rent so that the homeowner receives a new income stream from the first month, and the investors receive a return. With rates of African urbanisation exceeding 23 million people per year, there is a desperate need for good quality living space. There is already a shortage of over 65 million housing units across the continent.  Yoti’s expertise will be used by Bitprop to help establish and secure the identity of the homeowner, and to streamline the registration process. Products such as Yoti Sign, our biometric document signing solution, are also particularly relevant to Bitprop’s work. According to Glen Jordan, one of the co-founders, “Bitprop is busy creating a new reality in developing world property ownership and development. We have neither the desire nor capacity to re-invent specialised technology and processes already developed by people and companies with far more experience than us, so we are very pleased to be working with Yoti in the area of personal identification – a key building block for everything that we do.” Humanity Data Systems Humanity Data Systems is a startup dedicated to leveraging data analytics, machine learning and AI to improve the efficiency of aid delivery. Their objective is to help humanitarian actors – from local organisations operating on the ground to global agencies – respond better and quicker to the needs of vulnerable populations in conflict zones. Given the challenges present in the region, and the lack of tools available to organisations working there, Humanity Data Systems are currently focused on the Middle East, with their first products designed to help organisations understand what resources to deploy, where, how, when and by whom, with a realistic understanding of risk, and to track aid delivery and report easily to stakeholders. According to Bonnie Chiu, Co-Founder and CEO of Humanity Data Systems, “We are really excited to benefit from the wisdom and expertise of Yoti and Ken. Yoti, as a certified B Corp, has shown genuine commitment to using technology to create social good and we are excited to learn from them as we embark on a similar mission. We are also confident that we can accelerate our progress, benefiting from the wisdom and expertise of Ken, with his decades of global development experience in this field.” More on the Humanitarian Tech Support Programme Our Humanitarian Tech Support Programme is one activity from our wider Social Purpose Strategy. While the Programme has now reached capacity, if you’d like to talk more about how we might be able to support your humanitarian efforts in other ways please do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you. 

5 min read
Announcing our new Humanitarian Tech Support Programme

Announcing our new Humanitarian Tech Support Programme

As we see in a new decade the world seems to be staring down the barrel of ever-more humanitarian challenges. At the start of 2020 The New Humanitarian lists urban displacement, conflict, antibiotic resistance to infectious disease, gang violence, extremism and climate change as just some of crises facing not just the developing world, but the planet as a whole. While some things have improved for some people, life is still a major struggle for the vast majority of people on the planet. In purely economic terms, for example, one in every two people globally lives on less than $5.50 a day.  Given the scale of these problems, not to mention the number of people affected, it’s not surprising that many humanitarian organisations (and humanitarian-focused startups) are turning to a wide variety of technologies to give them the kind of impact they’re going to need if they’re to put any kind of dent in any of them.    Why we need this Programme Despite the promise, though, many technology-focused humanitarian startups fail for all sorts of reasons. It doesn’t help that many of the biggest problems are found in the most challenging of places, and that many of the newest, shiny tech innovations might also struggle to work there. On top of that, few humanitarian organisations or socially-focused tech startups  – particularly the smaller ones – have the kind of all-round expertise required to make their projects a success. Humanitarian problems are often as complex, if not more so, than the technologies organisations deploy to solve them.   At Yoti, we want to help This month we’re proud to announce our latest initiative. Yoti’s Humanitarian Tech Support Programme makes use of our extensive experience of innovation in the global development sector, our expansive list of networks and contacts, and our digital identity and broader technology expertise. Yoti commits to working closely with Programme partners to fill in any skills gaps by helping them better understand the human, technical and environmental context of the work they’re undertaking, and to help them better design, test and deploy their solutions. Every organisation is different, and their individual needs will very much depend on the team driving the project forward.    Announcing our first Programme Partner We’re excited to announce that our first Programme Partner is Lanterne, a for-profit social impact business with a mission to use data to save lives and improve economic development.  Lanterne are exploring multiple avenues to achieve this mission, including:  Applying machine learning techniques to satellite imagery to discover patterns in conflict events. 
 Applying machine learning techniques to extract information from online news and social media in near real-time, with a view to developing and maintaining a database of conflict events.  Crowd-sourcing data from users on the ground, so that a community of users could help keep each other safe by reporting incidents they observe. “We’re absolutely thrilled to be a Programme Partner with Yoti. Humanitarian and development problems are extremely complex, and we believe it’s always best to tackle them through thoughtful collaboration. We’re immensely excited to have the opportunity to work with Ken and Yoti, and we have no doubt Yoti’s expertise, networks, and experience in innovation will be invaluable to us as we pursue our mission” said Alex Barnes, one of the Co-Founders at Lanterne.   What we’re looking for and how to apply We’re looking for up to three more humanitarian organisations (or tech-focused humanitarian startups) who might benefit from our global development and identity expertise. If you are doing any of the following you are welcome to apply:  Building or managing online communities where trust is a key component. Developing a service – or building a community – which might require (or benefit from) verified identities of its users. Building a humanitarian tool or service which generates, or makes use of, highly sensitive information.  You have other trust, identity, digital identity or related project challenges which we may not have thought about yet.  Selected Programme Partners will receive the kind of advice and support you’d normally pay for, along with access to our suite of technologies (and the technical support that goes with it). You can be based anywhere in the world, and be for-profit or non-profit, as long as your work is primarily humanitarian in focus. We are working on a rolling application process, so there is no closing date.  Your main contact person will be Ken Banks, our Head of Social Purpose, who has over two decades of experience in the technology, innovation and global development sectors – experience that you will be free to draw on as and when needed. Ken will in turn be able to draw on other resources within Yoti, as and when appropriate.  Here at Yoti we’re as committed to social change as you are. Let’s work together to make the world a little better for everyone. If you’re interested in being a Programme Partner, or have any questions, please reach out to social.purpose@yoti.com to kick off the conversation.     This Humanitarian Tech Support Programme is just one of the activities from our wider 2020 Social Purpose Strategy. Download a copy to find out what we’re up to here.

5 min read
DataKind UK's #7 Data Science and Ethics Book Club at Yoti

DataKind UK's #7 Data Science and Ethics Book Club at Yoti

Last week, we had the pleasure of hosting the seventh Data Science and Ethics Book Club, organised by our friends at DataKind UK. This was the final book club of the year and the topic up for discussion was AI and race. This is a hugely important conversation to advance as our lives become increasingly digital and influenced by algorithms and machine learning. The reading list  The main book that anchored the evening’s talk was Race After Technology by Ruha Benjamin, which provides an accessible but deep understanding about how technology can replicate and exacerbate racial inequality. This was complemented with the journal article Sebastian Benthall & Bruce D. Haynes, Racial Categories in machine learning.   There were also a few quick reads on the list:  Jessie Daniels, Mutale Nkonde, Darakhshan Mir – Advancing Racial Literacy in Tech – Why ethics, diversity in hiring and implicit bias trainings aren’t enough. Karen Hao, This is how AI bias really happens—and why it’s so hard to fix. MIT Technology Review . And some short watches:  A poem performed by Joy Buolamwini –  AI, Ain’t I A Woman?  A talk by Safiya Noble in which she provides a short discussion of her book, Algorithms of Oppression . A comedy sketch on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee with guest correspondent Sasheer Zamata who discusses Afrofuturism. The talking It was a relaxed evening of interesting debate and exchange of ideas. After some brief introductions and nibbles, we split into small groups to discuss the readings. The conversations were helpfully prompted by some of the DataKind UK volunteers with questions such as, is technology neutral?  There were some really insightful examples put forward that looked at everything from traffic lights to the splitting of the atom. The attendees brought ideas from a range of different perspectives, backgrounds and organisations. For more about what was discussed on the night, have a read of DataKind UK’s article here. DataKind UK DataKind UK are a charity that use data science for social good. They manage teams of pro bono data scientists and technical experts to deliver on projects with their nonprofit partners.  We fully support their work and have hosted previous events in which they have spoken about their social good efforts. You can read more about their projects and their experience setting up an Ethics Committee here and keep an eye on their Eventbrite page to join the next book club sessions in the New Year.  Get in touch We invest a lot of time and effort in supporting other socially-minded organisations. We regularly invite organisations to use our Park area for Meetups, talks and workshops. If you would like to use our space, please get in touch with our Social Purpose team – we’d love to hear what you’re working on.

3 min read
Adventures in social purpose

Adventures in social purpose

It’s been exactly 18 months since I joined Yoti, initially as Head of Social Impact but more recently under a revised title of Head of Social Purpose. We felt the word ‘impact’ was too focused on the end result, and not enough on the process, the DNA and the ethos of what we were trying to do. While we do, of course, want our efforts to have a positive impact, we believe that how you go about creating that impact is equally as important – perhaps more important – as the impact itself.  Most of my career has been spent in the global conservation and development sectors, a place where commitment to doing good is more often than not obvious and plain for all to see. Things are a little different in the corporate world. With the exception of a few Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, my exposure to companies genuinely trying to ‘do well by doing good’ has been rather limited – until I started work at Yoti. Bringing all of our ‘doing good’ together into a coherent and comprehensive Social Purpose Programme has been a fascinating exercise for me, and for the company. And it would appear we’re on the right track with our recent nomination in the Best in Brand Purpose category in The Drum Social Purpose Awards.  We thought it might be helpful to share a little of what we’ve learnt along the way.   Look for the badge of honour We’ve all heard of greenwashing – the covering up of environmental harm caused by a company’s activities by producing a glossy brochure that pushes the few good things the company might do. Anyone can do good PR or spin a story, but not everyone can become a B Corp. B Corps are the badge of honour for companies doing good. Heavily audited, they are committed to ‘doing well by doing good’. I’ve heard this from many of my colleagues at Yoti, and it’s also true in my case – Yoti’s B Corp status was a big factor in my decision to join.    Find a company whose products you believe in It’s hard to build a social purpose programme around a company whose products don’t improve the human condition in some way or another, or worse, that have the potential to cause actual social or environmental harm. First and foremost, join a company that has products with the potential to do the kind of good you believe in. For me, this was a no-brainer at Yoti. Keeping people safe online is a big deal.    CSR doesn’t equate to purpose Companies can do great work through their CSR programmes, and many do. The trouble is by sectioning off the ‘good things we do’ into a separate department, or corner of the office, this tends to silo all the positive from the day-to-day drudge of the business. People want to work for companies that are good through and through, where everyone contributes – not companies that are around about average with a few people running a small CSR programme.    Senior management buy-in is key I’ve been fortunate at Yoti to have the full buy-in of the CEO, CFO and entire senior management team. Not only do social purpose programmes cost money, from time to time they can divert resources away from other commercial activities that are crucial to the business. Building out a quality, meaningful social purpose programme without senior management buy-in is going to be close to impossible, not to mention the signal that gives to staff further down that purpose isn’t something the company wants, or takes seriously. Purpose has to matter to everyone, from the top to the bottom.    Engage in a little silo busting Yoti is a digital identity company and our product offerings are a little niche (we’re obviously working hard to change that). Rather than restricting our outreach to the digital identity sector, we’ve been increasingly talking to the humanitarian sector (where our expertise has value) and various anthropology-focused networks (our social purpose work is very human-focused). We’re now increasingly sharing our experiences with others who work in social purpose. Think about the work you’re doing, and think about how it might cross over into other sectors. Nobody wants to talk in an echo chamber.    Be evidence-based Try to develop a strategy that is evidence-based. Carry out research where appropriate, and be open to learning if you don’t have the answers. At Yoti a relatively small amount of money funded a piece of UK-based research last summer which seriously challenged our social impact ambitions. This lead us to pivot to a more international strategy which you see today.   Embrace your ‘known unknowns’ Hold an internal workshop to gain a better understanding of how your colleagues see social impact and purpose – how it might be defined, and how it might be achieved and measured. Yes, you’ll almost certainly be learning on your feet so be open and transparent about the process – consider pulling everything together into an Impact Report of some kind. Be open and honest the whole time – not just with the end results but with the process. People will respect you for it.    Define the undefined We recently sent out a short two-minute survey to Yoti staff, and one of the questions challenged them to define our social purpose in one sentence (Disney’s, for example, is “to use our imaginations to bring happiness to millions”). The responses were as fascinating as they were wide-ranging. This matters if you’re looking for a single, coherent message about why your company exists. Before you do too much, define what you mean by social purpose – and get everyone behind it.   Embrace the wider sector At Yoti we don’t just have eyes on our own products and services. We believe that a healthy digital identity sector is in the interests of everyone. Because of this, a large part of our Social Purpose Strategy seeks to support the development of healthy debate around digital identity, and the democratisation of the technology behind it. We have invested time, money and resources into an exciting Fellowship Programme and the development of a Toolkit. Whatever the objectives of your social purpose efforts, don’t forget to look beyond your own four walls.    Build networks. Buy books One of the most exciting things about starting something new is that it presents the best possible opportunity to learn. Reach out to other Heads of Social Purpose in other industries, and other countries. Ask them for advice. Ask them about their favourite social purpose books. Search for impact reports online to figure out how other companies define, measure and communicate why they exist. A few books I’m already beginning to find useful include:   Roy Spence and Haley Rushing – It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business is Driven by Purpose David Hieatt – Do Purpose: Why Brands With a Purpose Do Better and Matter More Markus Kramer – The Guiding Purpose Strategy: A Navigational Code for Brand Growth Aaron Hurst – The Purpose Economy: How Your Desire for Impact, Personal Growth and Community Is Changing the World John Mackey – Conscious Capitalism   Have I missed anything? If you head up social purpose within your own organisation I’d love to hear from you and swap notes. Or if you’re interested in social purpose more broadly, or know of a good book I should read, please do get in touch. It would be great to hear from you. After all, when it comes to doing good, we’re all in this together. 

7 min read