Govind Shivkumar
Principal, Beneficial Technology

Why We Invested: A Modular Open Source Identity Platform

January 11, 2019

As countries implement national identity systems, hoping to include and empower their citizens, unlock the efficiencies, and realize the potential of a digital society, they can experience challenges that at best frustrate and at worst cost time and money. 

Some of the most significant issues occur when they are forced to lock-in to a specific technology or providers’ services, experience unexpected costs, lose control over their data, and cannot switch to new and better technologies later without incurring an additional expense. And these challenges don’t just affect the government; they ultimately hinder citizens’ ability to fully and freely access basic services.

With more than 60 percent of African countries planning to launch or refresh an identity program in the next two years, there are a lot of opportunities to improve their experiences, the design and governance of these systems, and ultimately, their outcomes.

To help address countries’ concerns and break down some of the barriers to providing Good ID for all citizens, Omidyar Network has recently invested in a modular, open source, identity platform (MOSIP). MOSIP provides a secure, standard-compliant, vendor-neutral, affordable, scalable, and customizable platform to build a digital national ID system.

It is being made available for free, as a public good, by the International Institute for Information Technology — Bangalore (IIIT-B) through GitHub and at www.mosip.io.

IIIT-B is an Indian research institution with broad industry connections and significant success at the intersection of technology and public interest. IIIT-B is uniquely able to ensure MOSIP embraces the best practices of other foundational identity systems, such as scalability, security, privacy, and user control, and that it will be technology and vendor-neutral, harnessing the power of open-source technology and standards.

IIIT-B is ensuring MOSIP is being designed through a consultative process with key stakeholders to ensure it truly addresses countries and citizens’ needs. Its success will depend on the engagement of a vibrant community of developers, system integrators, user communities, and other champions of Good ID to create the basic technology framework, architecture and backbone of a foundational identity system.

With the building blocks of MOSIP, countries can design their national ID systems to be context-specific and based on local laws and decisions. The government of Morocco will be the first to use MOSIP to build its digital identification system, with the goal to integrate the system with social safety net programs and help deliver government programs to citizens.

As they begin to share their experience using the open-source platform, we expect many other countries and private innovators will be drawn to its usefulness.

Omidyar Network is proud to support IIIT-B in this positively disruptive endeavor because MOSIP represents an example of “good technology”, which puts people’s privacy, security, and other needs at the center of its design. Legacy technologies and policies can prevent countries from empowering individuals with control and agency over their identity; MOSIP defies this norm and has backed its design features with the principles of Good ID:

  • Modular architecture, whichgives countries choices about what types of micro-services it wishes to integrate with the ID system and inspiration for the innovation economy to build products and services on top of the platform
  • Open-source software, which allows outside developers to improve the system overtime, contribute new ideas, exchange and troubleshoot challenges, and ensure transparency of the code behind the system
  • Scalability and best-in-class performance, which adds to the usefulness and reliability for countries of all sizes
  • Security, which is robustly addressed through data anonymization, use of secure communications channels, restricted and authorized users, and regular audits
  • Privacy,which is maintained through data minimization, restricted access controls, and monitoring for breaches
  • Flexibility, configurability, and extendibility, which will help ensure each module can be connected to the others or replaced as it grows and changesovertime

Omidyar Network is one of many organizations that see the value of MOSIP; the platform is also supported by Tata Trusts and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Our global, philanthropic institutions believe that digital identification systems foster social and economic inclusion and this is a giant step toward including the 1.1 billion people across the world who currently lack any form of identification.

We hope the countries and companies that engage with MOSIP will help shape the overall direction of digital identity, advancing it toward privacy and individual empowerment.

 

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