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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.

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

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

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

#MarginalizedAadhaar: Is Aadhaar a Tech Solution for a Socio-Economic Problem?

#MarginalizedAadhaar: Is Aadhaar a Tech Solution for a Socio-Economic Problem?

This is the fourth field diary entry from Subhashish, one of our Digital Identity Fellows. His year-long research project is focused on the challenges and opportunities within marginalised groups most affected by Aadhaar, India’s national digital ID system. *** “You cannot fix using the law what you have broken using technology“ says Indian cybersecurity expert Anand Venkatanarayanan, quoting Professor Sunil Abraham at the Kenyan High Court. Venkatanarayanan was appearing as a witness for the Nubians, a discriminated community for whom the Kenyan biometric database National Integrated Identity Management Scheme (NIIMS, also known as Huduma Namba) would create further exclusions after its implementation. Kenya and India do not just share a common history of colonisation. The national biometric programmes in both countries — NIIMS and Aadhaar respectively — have striking similarities in furthering marginalisation and criminalisation of communities who find themselves already underrepresented. The architects of Aadhaar were given the task of providing a technological solution to solve a deeply complex socio-economic challenge. India has a long history of racial oppression — one that existed much before colonisation and one that continues long after India’s formation as a democratic republic in 1947. After a decade of Aadhaar, the issues that the project was expected (or hoped) to resolve persist while many extremely marginalised communities find themselves in a multitude of troubles, especially in relation to access to basic amenities and services. As intimate conversations as part of my research indicate (see Field Diaries #1, #2 and #3) communities that are the most marginalised end up being further exploited as a result of our absolute trust in ‘tech-solutionism’. In this latest entry, I will be exploring how technological biases have materialised from systemic social issues of oppression in Indian society, especially in the context of Aadhaar.   ‘Tech-weapons of mass exclusion’ One can only grasp a tiny portion of what a national biometric-based identity system like Aadhaar means to a common citizen when viewed through the lenses of different demographics — social, political, economical, regional, linguistic, religious, and most importantly, access to privileges for those who are at the bottom of the pyramid. Identity systems need to include a great deal of social inclusion and rights of individuals to address issues across the spectrum — from widespread inequality to nuances for a particularly vulnerable group. If they don’t, people with privileges but with no understanding of diversity and inclusion end up building ‘tech-weapons of mass exclusion’. In my previous field diary, I highlighted many exclusions faced by people across India. Of those, the most haunting experience for me was when I listened to Harshabati Kheti, an old woman who had lost her fingers, and, over the span of 11 months, was stopped multiple times from enrolling by the authorities at her local Aadhaar enrolment centre. Kheti was denied food grains, rations and even emergency relief after the COVID-19 outbreak because of a technological limitation in Aadhaar. After initially being reported on Twitter by the Odisha State chapter of the National Right to Food campaign, and further reporting by myself, the state authorities intervened and provided Kheti the rice she was long entitled to. Aadhaar has been deployed for biometric-based authentication in the distribution of food grains and rations through the Public Distribution System (acronymed PDS — a federal government initiative to provide food and essential commodities to people in need with the objective of eradicating poverty). Between the 2001 and the 2011 Indian census, the number of people in need with disabilities rose from 21 to 26.8 million (a 22.4% increase). Professor Reetika Khera, in “Dissent on Aadhaar: Big Data Meets Big Brother” notes that: [..]The most forceful framing of Aadhaar was as an enabler of welfare. Identity and inclusion were the twin objectives that proponents used to sell the idea to the Indian public.[..]The claim was that having an Aadhaar number would enable inclusion. Non-existent beneficiaries were everywhere, according to the UIDAI narrative. A centralised database with a unique number associated with each person would sanitize beneficiary databases of such non-existent beneficiaries.[..]”   Contextualising tech One cannot talk about technology, particularly in India, without discussing systemic racial discrimination. India’s political power dynamics are much more racially divisive than ever before, and this has now become part of an apparatus for exclusion. The caste system in Hinduism divides people of Hindu faith into four major classes whereas a group of communities are considered as outcastes and untouchables. These communities, collectively known as Dalits in progressive discourses, are classified as Scheduled Castes in the Indian Constitution. The Bharatiya Janata Party, the ruling right-wing nationalist political party dominated by “upper-caste” Hindus, has been pushing to exclude the Dalit, Muslim and Adivasi people – and several other marginalised communities – through divisive policies. From the perspectives of human rights, the technological implementations of these policies often translate into inherent design flaws. Access to information your native language One might wonder why Aadhaar-based authentication requires the Internet as a primary dependency when there have been 402 internet shutdowns and many other Internet slowdowns imposed by the current government since 2014. Furthermore, the 104 million Adivasis who are largely excluded because they come from low-income groups, get further excluded when they cannot learn anything about Aadhaar in their native languages.  Sora-language speaker Manjula Bhuyan from Odisha, India, highlights the importance of accessing information about digital identity in one’s native language (downloadable videos with captions and transcripts here).   Declared illegal The impact of this systemic bias ranges from Dalit and Muslim schoolchildren from low-income families being denied of scholarships because of errors in Aadhaar, to Muslim citizens being harassed and asked to provide proof of citizenship. Muslims in the state of Assam have been among the hardest hit — 1.9 million (mostly Muslims) out of the 33 million population of the State were declared illegal during the National Register of Citizens (NRC), a programme designed to eliminate illegal immigrants.  The state of digital identity took a critical turn when 1.9 million people of the total population of 31 million were declared illegal (downloadable videos with captions and transcripts here).   I contacted Ashraful Hussain, an activist who works closely with many discriminated Assamese Muslims. What Hussain shares is heart-wrenching. “Most Muslims – and even many Hindus of [West] Bengal origin – were purposely excluded in the ‘original inhabitant‘ category by the officers who were in charge of the NRC drive.” The 1.9 million people whose names were left out in the list of “legal citizens” have only one option left — to appear before the ‘Foreigner’s Tribunal’ to prove their citizenship in a judicial process. With the NRC exercise on hold during the COVID-19 lockdown, the fate of all these people hangs in the balance. Hussain fears that these people, who are becoming poorer due to lockdown restrictions, willneed to pay for the legal battle to prove their citizenship when lockdowns are lifted. But that said, the exclusion goes much further. “As many Muslim women are illiterate and are unable to find documents to establish their parental link, these women and their children are out of the the [NRC] list”, adds Hussain. NRC is deeply linked with Aadhaar. As lawyer Tripti Poddar explains, biometric data of individuals were collected during the NRC process. Those who made it to the NRC were issued Aadhaars whereas those who did not were denied. Poddar further argues that even a foreigner residing in India can receive an Aadhaar, but a citizen flagged by the NRC can be stripped of their constitutional rights.     Blog header credits: Biometric details being captured in an Aadhaar enrolment centre in Kolkata, West Bengal, India (Biswarup Ganguly, CC-BY-3.0)

Identity theft in the Western Cape

Identity theft in the Western Cape

This is the fourth field diary entry from Tshepo, one of our Yoti Digital Identity Fellows. His year-long research project is looking at the digital identity landscape in South Africa, with a specific focus on the national smart ID identity programme from a human rights perspective.  ***** Identity theft is rising in South Africa, with fraudsters costing the economy more than R1 billion every year. While each province has its own story to tell in terms of statistics and impact, the problem is truly a national one. My research has continued in the Western Cape, the official COVID-19 epicentre of South Africa, as new challenges have affected this widely known city – the one with blue skies and an ocean view, overlooked by Table Mountain. The area has been hard hit by the pandemic that continues to spark fear and distress among the locals and the government. As of the 28th June 2020, the Western Cape had accounted for 59,315 confirmed cases out of around 132,000 cases nationally. The Western Cape insisted on re-opening its economy despite resistance from the national government, claiming that it has been their high levels of testing that has led to the high number of detected cases. This high level of testing has resulted in significant challenges across the city as health workers fanned out to businesses and people’s homes to carry out tests. Being able to identify who is, and who isn’t, a bona-fide health worker has turned out to  be a big challenge.  Increased fraud during covid Cape Town, previously known as the city that never sleeps, is eerily empty in the evenings due to lockdown restrictions. But one thing is for sure – fraudsters operate with no lockdown restrictions. Many have taken advantage of the lull to reinforce their positions within the city, something which has been easier than normal given the cities primary focus on flattening the curve of the coronavirus. Identity theft Unlike other provinces, the Western Cape has seen positive adoption of the Smart ID Card. That said, even prior to COVID-19 there were many reported cases of ID theft and many organisations have started taking an interest in the prevalence of identity theft and what it means for its victims. Many people go about their daily lives unaware that they were victims of fraud until they see the negative knock effect of their credit score. Some have indicated that they usually only find out they have become victims of identity theft when checking their credit report while applying for a home loan or car finance. Passport fraud The province has also faced challenges offering relief to undocumented refugees and providing shelter for homeless people. Fraudsters regularly take advantage by selling applicants fake IDs and passports. This takes place in the wake of a pandemic where everyone will do anything to get access to government handouts. The increased rate of passport forgery has been alarming. Eight foreign nationals and a South African home affairs department official have recently been arrested in connection with alleged corruption related to passports.   Financial fraud Citizens in the province have also indicated they’ve been noticing an increase in the number of fraudulent transactions in their accounts, a type of fraud that is becoming a trend in South Africa as a direct result of high identity theft. Consumers who discover fraudulent transactions on their bank accounts face a barrage of red tape to sort out the problem, and a threat of blacklisting if they try to stop the payment. There has also been a rise in the number of people who have been blacklisted over unpaid accounts they’ve never opened or unpaid invoices from reputable companies that they have never engaged with. With companies now willing to allow people to agree contracts or open accounts online instead of over the phone or in person, fraudsters have had a field day opening accounts on behalf of their victims using their information, and purchasing goods.  Unemployment fraud The province also has an unemployment rate of 20.4%, with many businesses closing and people being laid off. Fraudsters have also been able to take advantage here, pretending to represent companies or HR departments with open positions and enticing their victims to submit applications using personal and other sensitive information. This information is then used to commit different kinds of financial or identity fraud.  Transport Since the Western Cape is a coastal province with a major port, fraud usually takes place in trade-related services where goods are obtained illegally before being transported up-country. To put it simply, fake identities are used to load or unload goods at the hub and ports. Department of Transport employees have recently been arrested for allegedly illegally importing vehicles which were fraudulently registered, and for issuing fraudulent police clearances in the Western Cape. Biometric authentication as a solution? Another problem arises when people throw personal documents away without first shredding them. Fraudsters now target frequently-used dustbins in search of personal documentation they can use to impersonate a victim. Fraudsters are even impersonating officials by claiming to be from the fraud department alerting the client of a possible fraud attempt, effectively luring the victim to hand over personal details to access their funds. As a result, local companies are beginning to place their hopes on biometric authentication solutions, aimed at validating and verifying someone’s data using their identity registered on the Department of Home Affairs database. Locals have also indicated they sometimes make use of services from the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS), a non-profit organisation which is leading the fight against fraud and financial crime. They have a database with all the banks and can signal alerts during a scam. Locals are continually advised to use a secure place to store and protect their identities, with the Government of Cape Town now taking it upon themselves to educate the public in how to avoid identity theft.