Mission Billion Challenge seeks digital ID innovations

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Absa's Innovation Lab hosted the 'solveathon' workshops in Cape Town yesterday.
Absa's Innovation Lab hosted the 'solveathon' workshops in Cape Town yesterday.

The World Bank's Identification for Development (ID4D) Initiative has partnered with the Absa Innovation Lab to host 'solveathon' workshops to prepare participants for the inaugural Mission Billion Challenge.

The Mission Billion Challenge seeks innovative solutions to tackle digital identity issues for the world's 'invisible' one billion people who have no way of proving who they are.

The global challenge explores how digital identification systems in developing countries can be better designed or adapted to protect people's privacy and equip them with greater control over their personal data.

According to the World Bank, there are millions more people globally who have forms of identification that cannot be reliably verified or authenticated, and may therefore be excluded from essential public services and financial products.

The Absa Innovation Lab, through its initiative, WorkInProgress, in partnership with the ID4D and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will help find solutions to provide identification for the world's "invisible billion". Yesterday, the parties held and facilitated 'solveathon' workshops aimed at assisting participants to develop and improve their tech-based solutions.

"Digital identification has transformational potential for development, making services and the digital economy inclusive, especially for the poor," says Vyjayanti Desai, programme manager for the ID4D Initiative.

"But people need to trust digital ID systems, beginning with data protection, privacy and providing people with ultimate control over their data. We launched Mission Billion to find practical ways to achieve this in developing countries."

The local leg of the challenge is open until 24 February. It invites technologists, researchers, policy-makers, start-ups, and ordinary South Africans who have created practical, cost-effective and relevant solutions which can be used for digital identification systems, such as applications, features, or components that enhance existing systems.

"WorkInProgress exists to facilitate and contribute to the broader effort to create tech-based solutions in various sectors," explains Charmaine Lambert, head of WorkInProgress.

"Once submission stage is completed, a panel of technical judges will score the submissions and invite the most promising innovators to a live pitch event to present their solutions in Washington DC in April. We urge South Africans who think they have an idea or solution to the Mission Billion Challenge to register to be part of this digital identity solveathon."

There are two cash prizes of $100 000 and $50 000 to be won by the top achievers, adds Lambert.

"We are excited to work with the World Bank Group's ID4D Initiative on this challenge and leverage MIT Solve's platform to harness innovation and improve digital identification systems that will ultimately benefit the world's poorest,"addsMatthew Minor, director of International Programmes at MIT Solve.

"Affordable identification solutions are basic tools for participation in modern society and exercising basic rights previously inaccessible for these billion 'invisible' people. We are incredibly honoured to be hosts to this ground-breaking initiative."

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