For the new Sierra Leone digital ID initiative, blockchain is getting another workout. Kiva, a nonprofit based in California that focuses on small-scale loans, said it has helped to launch what it calls the National Digital Identity Platform (NDIP) in Sierra Leone.
Today, they typically transact with ‘informal’ forms of identification that are usable by their local village lender but are not usable to open a traditional financial account
The goal is, “to provide all citizens of Sierra Leone with the ability to own and use their national civil identity – digitally,” according to Kiva. “With just a thumbprint and their national identification number, Sierra Leoneans will in the years going forward be able to open or access an account at any financial institution in the country.”
Indeed, the digital ID blockchain effort is designed to encourage more access to traditional financial services for citizens of the country — a general motivation for various digital and mobile efforts in the less developed parts of the world. Some 1.7 billion adults worldwide — or about 43 percent of the global population — lack access to formal banking and other financial services, according to figures from Kiva and other organizations.
Among the biggest challenges for such consumers and citizen is the lack of “formal, verifiable identity,” Kiva says. “They typically transact with ‘informal’ forms of identification that are usable by their local village lender but are not usable to open a typical savings account.”
How Sierra Leone digital ID ties with financial services
In Sierra Leone, according to another report, “borrowers will be assigned with a digital wallet, accessible through an app, and their transactions would be recorded in a blockchain in a secure manner. Using the NDIP platform, lenders would be able to view borrower’s credit histories.” That report added that the country’s president expects that by the end of the year, “all banks and microfinance institutions operating in the country (will be) using the blockchain-based platform. As such, NDIP will continue to integrate with both formal and informal financial service providers.” The effort to promote deployment and use of this blockchain service in the Sierra Leone digital ID initiative reportedly has the backing of the country’s central bank.
Besides Kiva and the government of Sierra Leone, other participants in this digital ID blockchain effort include the United Nations Capital Development Fund and the United Nations Development Program.
More recent evidence that demonstrates how blockchain is being used for digital ID effort in Africa came from Tanzania, where news emerged of the first “blockchain baby” born earlier this year in Dar es Salaam. The project uses digital ID and blockchain to ensure access to vitamins, while enabling humanitarian authorities to cut down on fraud and better track program costs.