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Digital identity in the last mile: grassroots research overview

Digital identity in the last mile: grassroots research overview

We recently commissioned research to better understand digital identity needs in the developing world. Specifically, we wanted to understand how grassroots nonprofits could benefit from a digital identity platform to conduct their humanitarian work in Africa and South East Asia. Today, we’re publishing an overview of the project. The short document outlines the initial thinking behind our research, our thoughts on an offline product, what we sought to learn from the field based research and a few of our higher level findings. Download the ‘Digital identity in the last mile’ overview here. Please read through it and share it far and wide through your networks. And please do get in touch if you have any questions or are interested in helping with the development of, or piloting, our offline solution. Background A few months ago, we attended one of our first technology-for-development conferences since ramping up our humanitarian work earlier in the year. ICT4D2018 brought together public, private and civil society organisations from across the humanitarian and international development community. We were there representing Yoti to share some of our early thinking around how our identity solutions might support their wider humanitarian efforts. Feedback from attendees indicated an opportunity for a fully offline identity solution, working purely at a local (rather than national) level. Yoti already has a product in the pipeline – Yoti Key – which can be adapted for this purpose. Before embarking on product development we sought to clarify and expand our understanding of how a simple, offline identity product might work in different last mile and near last mile humanitarian contexts. So, we commissioned field based researchers in Africa and South East Asia to better understand local nonprofit needs.

Digital identity in the last mile: lessons from South East Asia

Digital identity in the last mile: lessons from South East Asia

Here at Yoti, we believe in the benefits of digital identity for all. As we continue to ramp up our efforts in the humanitarian sector, we recently commissioned research to better understand digital identity needs among grassroots nonprofits in the developing world. The first post in the series of two covered our work in Africa. Read it here. In this post, David Burton – a member of our South East Asia research team – shares his approach and findings from the region.     Digital identity in the last mile How can we keep our identities safe? It’s one of the greatest challenges facing governments, nonprofits and businesses today. Yoti recently asked Glean to help them find out how identity technology could help people in developing countries to stay safe and live better lives. So, our Director of Innovation, Jesse Orndorff, got to work. He set about co-designing a rapid survey and landscaping that helped Yoti understand the challenges faced at grassroots levels in the developing world.   Methodology We’ve been working in Asia for almost a decade now. In that time we’ve seen things change a lot, and we have a hopeful perspective on the power of tech to make a difference there. Good tech – tech that’s designed with the end user at its heart – can help growing economies to leapfrog entire areas that other economies have been struggling with. It’s no exaggeration to say that we’ve seen good tech changes lives in places – everywhere from Cambodia to Indonesia and Pakistan. The human centred design approach we took for this research is called the Growth framework. This framework became the basis for our work and shaped the way we conducted interviews. Our method was to ask simple questions and leave enough space to follow up on themes that emerged during the interview. We would then summarise our findings under common headings. We interviewed senior managers and grassroots NGO workers from 11 different organisations, who work in 7 different Asian nations. We asked them about how they managed participant identity information, what tools and systems they use, what problems they face in handling IDs, and what opportunities they could see for improving the way they handle IDs in future.   The Problems We learned that there are many common problems related to identity across different areas and sectors. They include: Documentation – it’s not unusual for someone’s identity to be confirmed using documents which often only exist as single copies and are hard or impossible to obtain. Verification – new projects often require local officials to confirm people’s identities on a case by case basis. The process can be lengthy, and often people are prevented from benefitting from a project because their identity can’t be confirmed. Fraud – bad processes for handling identity can sometimes mean resources are poorly distributed. It’s because people appear on participant lists more than once, or because verification and documentation are seen as impossible and are therefore not attempted. Insecure ID systems also create space for corruption and abuse of power.   Good ID can change everything Identity sits at a pinch-point which everyone we interviewed saw as vital to their work. Across the board – from community development to microsavings, and disaster response to health – everyone agreed that bad ID solutions hold back promising projects. Almost all projects require the project lead to identify the people in the user group. That means that a good solution for confirming identity, covering both documentation and verification, has huge potential to transform systems and have real impact across a wide range of sectors and activities. Throughout our research, we met a lot of people who were incredibly excited about how a better, more secure solution for proving and storing identity details could help people to be safer and more prosperous, even in very vulnerable circumstances.   Biometrics are very appealing We wanted to talk about format with our interviewees. We wanted to get a sense of how the storage approach for ID could be helpful or frustrating for them. As well as concerns about single copy documents which can easily be lost, and the challenge of getting documentation at all, we regularly heard that biometrics are seen as a good way of avoiding fraud and verifying identity easily.   Privacy and security could be a matter of life and death With the same vehemence as they expressed for the need for good ID solutions, our interviewees consistently voiced concerns about privacy. Beyond concerns about commercial exploitation of identity, which are relevant around the world, bad ID management has the potential to directly affect the safety of people in some developing contexts. Where everyday corruption is normal, any central repository of information can be actively used to endanger the lives and livelihoods of community members. It is vital for any solution to be secure, and to have privacy as a high order design aim.   ID for the win The opportunities for identity and technology to make a real, lasting difference to people’s lives are exciting and extensive. Good ID management can keep people safe and help them to access projects, government services and economic opportunities that they would otherwise be excluded from. Having control of their identity can be a major asset to vulnerable people in particular. And it’s clear that, with a focus on privacy and security at the heart, identity management is a huge opportunity to help people to make the most of their resources and their activities.   David Burton Director of Strategy, Glean www.glean.net

Digital identity in the last mile: lessons from Africa

Digital identity in the last mile: lessons from Africa

Here at Yoti, we believe in the benefits of a digital identity for all. As we continue to ramp up our efforts in the humanitarian sector, we recently commissioned research to better understand digital identity needs among grassroots nonprofits in the developing world. In this guest post, Kevin Madegwa – our African research lead – shares his approach and findings from the continent. Look out for a second guest post on our findings in South East Asia coming soon. Digital identity in the last mile Identity research is not something I had thought too much about until I was recently asked to help conduct some design research for Yoti. To tell you the truth, what I have learnt since has been fascinating. For the unfamiliar, Yoti is a London-based technology company on a mission to become the world’s trusted identity platform. Yoti plans to adapt one of its digital identity products to work in areas with poor infrastructure and limited connectivity where there are critical identity needs. As a human centered designer, I was brought in to help understand the identity needs of grassroots organisations and what these prospective users might need out of an identity tool. We selected ten countries throughout Africa – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Liberia, Somalia, Zambia Ethiopia, South Sudan, Rwanda and Malawi. These countries are each very different in their adoption and penetration of digital tools, and the application of new technology in general. We were keen to have a wide geographical spread in order to tease out any patterns that might help inform digital identity needs across the spectrum. Our methods and findings To get richer data we selected organisations from a range of different sectors, including education, HIV/AIDS and health, water/sanitation, sport and economic development. We also created an online survey to help supplement our data, and to tease out use cases from countries and sectors out of our initial focus areas. Throughout our user experience research we asked organisations to share their experiences of identification and verification, and their overall thoughts on the concept of digital identity. The responses showed varying degrees of understanding of how digital identity worked, and the different ways it was possible. One interviewee, for example, told us he preferred fingerprints as a mode of identification because everyone has a unique fingerprint, and they were hard to forge. This, of course, is true of any biometric identity method. We heard stories of infants dying because they were immunised twice. Respondents wondered whether there could be a way of digitally identifying infants as it could save lives. Others spoke of election fraud, and the ability to tell whether an individual had already voted. On the issue of connectivity, one respondent was adamant that they would only embrace a digital identity platform that didn’t depend on internet connectivity, given how hard it was to access the internet in their community. This is a critical insight given, at times, there is a tendency to design products that do not fit the context of the user. These solutions are doomed to fail, however much they are needed, and Yoti are committed to only providing appropriate tools that work in the environments in which their users operate. For many rural health clinics and community hospitals, patient records are stored on paper in physical files and binders. If a patient visits a health facility without their book or card, a clinician is forced to go through a pile of paperwork to find their name and any other details they might need before attending to the patient. This eats up a lot of time, represents wasted effort and is a poor use of often limited resources – especially if there is a long queue of patients waiting to be seen. This can lead to frustration from other patients, and sometimes tempers flare up turning into physical violence and verbal abuse. Clinicians we interviewed wondered whether they could digitise the identification and verification process for patients to speed up the service. Some saw a digital identification system not only as a huge problem solver that would save time, but also one that might help secure patient information in case of fire or flooding. Work to do yet Many others had more basic questions around digital identity, something which was not a surprise given they had previously had little exposure to the technology. Is a digital identity system secure? Is the system flexible? If it needs to connect to the internet, does it use a lot of data? Do people need smartphones? Can they be hacked? Clearly any work that Yoti does in these environments will require a degree of education, and technological sensitisation. Yoti plans to release their research findings in due course. If you’re interested in digital identity in the last mile, or you’re a non-profit organisation working in these kinds of challenging places and would like to talk more, they would love to hear from you. Kevin Madegwa www.fender.co.ke Nairobi, Kenya

New adventures in digital identity

A few months ago, as I planned my move to a new Head of Social Impact role at Yoti, I started to do a little digging into who was saying what, and doing what, in the world of digital identity. At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s a bit of a hot topic right now (along with drones, big data, AI and 3D printing). I wasn’t surprised to find well over two dozen fairly recent papers and reports on the challenges and potential of digital identity in global development. Between accepting my new role and my start date, someone had even published a new book on the subject. Although my latest role in digital identity is new, my relationship with Yoti isn’t. Three years ago I became a founding Yoti Guardian, one of three ‘influential individuals who ensure that Yoti always seeks to do the right thing, and that we are transparent about what we are doing and why.’ I was excited by what Yoti were doing even back then, and that was before they’d launched. The smartphone app in the product roadmap was one thing, but another they had in the works, Yoti Key (an NFC-enabled tag which can digitally hold someone’s identity) had considerable resonance given my many years experience working on simple, low-tech, last mile solutions in global development. Because of the potential, Yoti Key was the first thing I honed in on when I came on board. Yoti may be a private company, but it’s a private company incredibly focused on its social impact. It was one of the first UK companies to be certified as a B Corp – the ‘Fair Trade’ for business – in late 2015, and my new role as Head of Social Impact is further testament to our commitment to doing well, by doing good. Yoti had already been working with a number of UK based charities on their identity needs when I joined, but global development is a something of a whole new ball game for us. Beginning in late April, we started ramping up our outreach to humanitarian organisations, demonstrated our offline Yoti Key concept at ICTD2018 in Lusaka, began designing a new, dedicated Social Impact section of the Yoti website and commissioned research in a number of African and South East Asian countries in order to better understand identity needs among local, grassroots organisations. Our initial scoping of the global digital identity space has highlighted a gap in understanding the needs of organisations working in offline environments, or areas of poor connectivity. Here at Yoti we’re committed to digital identity for everyone, and that doesn’t just mean everyone with a smartphone and an internet connection. We’ll be sharing our research findings in the coming weeks, along with details of how we plan to serve the local, grassroots community with digital identity solutions that work for them, where they are. We’ll also begin sharing Yoti case studies to help the nonprofit sector better understand the implications of digital identity in their work. If you’d like to get in touch, then send us a message. We’d love to hear from you.

DataKind UK: using data science for good

DataKind UK: using data science for good

We invest a lot of time and effort into supporting other socially minded organisations. As part of our efforts, we regularly invite those organisations to use our Park area for meetups, talks and workshops. Last week we hosted DataKind UK and Global Witness who spoke to a large audience of friends and supporters about their work uncovering problems in the UK’s Companies Register. In this guest post, Suzy East from DataKind UK tells us a bit more about the project they presented.   Using data science for good What do you get if you cross four do-gooding data scientists, a corruption fighting nonprofit and more than 10 million data points? That’s exactly what the attendees at our recent meetup – kindly hosted by our friends at Yoti – came along to find out. Despite unprecedented temperatures and the World Cup beckoning, more than 80 people showed up on Tuesday evening to hear DataKind UK volunteers talk about their seven month endeavour to uncover the hidden patterns in UK corporate ownership data.   Who are DataKind UK? We’re a charity that uses data science for social good. We manage teams of pro bono data scientists and technical experts to deliver on projects with our nonprofit partners. We’ve been running for five years now and have a thriving community of volunteer data scientists who love to use their data skills for good.   It started with a DataDive It all started back in 2016, when we first worked with the anti-corruption organisation, Global Witness. We spent a weekend of exploratory analysis with them, which became known as DataDives. A team of 50 volunteers unearthed a wealth of insights on UK company ownership from the Companies House open dataset. Namely, a worrying lack of data integrity. For example, in the nationality field, people had found over 500 ways to say ‘British’, including ten people who identified as ‘Cornish’. This and other findings were fed directly back to Companies House, and they changed the way they collected data as a result! Problem solved, right? If only it were that easy.   Uncovering patterns After an initial look at the data, it was clear there was more work to do. So in 2017, Global Witness and DataKind embarked on a DataCorps project. On DataCorps, we work with a charity partner over 6-9 months to build a data science solution. The aim was to take a full snapshot of Companies House ownership data and build a network graph mapping beneficial owners, registered addresses and other key identifiers. This way we could better explore and visualise the data to spot emerging patterns.   A sneak preview Some of the key findings which we shared at our June meetup include: 4,000 owners are listed under the age of 2 – including one who has yet to be born! Over 40% of the beneficial owners of Scottish Limited Partnerships (SLPs) are either a national of a former-Soviet country or a company incorporated there – compared to just 0.1% of all Limited Companies. 5 beneficial owners control more than 6,000 companies – might some of these individuals simply be stooges put in place by the real owners?   For more info on what we unearthed throughout the project, check out the report from Global Witness, due to be released in July 2018. As well as sharing some results from the project, attendees got to find out what makes for a successful data for good project, and what it’s like to volunteer on one. If you’re interested in finding out more, or volunteering with DataKind UK, please come along to our next meetup or sign up to our mailing list.   Suzy East Project & Events Coordinator DataKind UK