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PRESS RELEASE: World Bank Announces ‘Mission Billion Challenge’ Winners, Spotlighting the Transformational Potential of Digital Identification and Innovative Ideas to Strengthen Privacy & Empower People

Washington, D.C., April 12th, 2019—Her Majesty Queen Màxima of the Netherlands, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank, Hassan Ali Khayre, Prime Minister of Somalia, Paula Ingabire, Rwanda Minister of ICT & Innovation, Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Niale Kaba, Côte d'Ivoire Minister of Planning and Development, and Makhtar Diop, Vice President for Infrastructure, World Bank, spoke at the “Mission Billion: Transforming Countries and Empowering People Through Digital Identity” event on the sidelines of the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings. The high-level panel explored how to seize the opportunities of ‘Good’ digital ID systems—those that are robust, inclusive and trusted—to expand access to services, encourage innovation, accelerate financial inclusion, and boost the digital economy. It was followed by pitches by the Mission Billion innovation challenge finalists.

Despite significant progress in recent years, an estimated one billion people are still unable to prove who they are, and many more have forms of identification that cannot be reliably verified or authenticated. Without a secure and trusted way to prove their identity, people struggle to open a bank account, enroll in school, access health and social services, or obtain a mobile phone. The poorest and most vulnerable often face the highest risk of being excluded and there is a significant gender gap with nearly one in two women in low-income countries lacking an ID. For refugees, identification is a key source of protection, and an opportunity to participate and contribute to their host community. In the digital age, the lack of ‘Good’ ID often results in barriers to accessing opportunities being created through the digital economy, such as e-commerce and digital financial services. The Principles on Identification for Sustainable Development, which have been signed onto by 24 international organizations and development partners, contribute to putting the idea of ‘Good’ ID into practice.

“Digital identification systems have tremendous potential for expanding economic opportunities and financial access for the poor. Identification systems that are managed in a responsible manner, that prioritize privacy, data protection, and the empowerment of their users, can deliver on this potential,” said H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development. "Innovations that help safeguard privacy and make it easier for people to understand how their data is used are critical for building inclusive and responsible digital ID systems that can help people access economic opportunities and financial services more easily and create lasting development impact."

“Digital ID systems have huge potential to help people in developing countries access services, finance, jobs and other opportunities,” said Kristalina Georgieva, Chief Executive Officer of the World Bank and Co-Chair of the Identification for Development (ID4D) High Level Advisory Council. “The Mission Billion Challenge brings forward ideas that show how we can implement these systems and protect data and privacy. We hope they will be scaled up so that they can make a difference for the world’s most vulnerable people.”

The World Bank Group’s Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative launched the Mission Billion Challenge (powered by MIT Solve) in November 2018 to surface practical and cost-effective solutions on ‘privacy by design’ features that can be embedded into digital identification systems and empowering users with their data.

Mission Billion Solveathon workshops, facilitated by MIT Solve in collaboration with the World Bank, were held in Nairobi, Bangalore, Mexico City, Cape Town, and San Francisco.

Over 170 solutions were submitted from 54 countries from academics, entrepreneurs, scientists, and technologists. Six finalists were selected to pitch their solutions live to a packed audience and a panel of expert judges at World Bank Headquarters.

Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Infrastructure, announced that the winner of Mission Billion was Simprints, for its open source toolkit that uses audio messages during registration to help people provide meaningful informed consent and to understand how their data is going to be used. Second place was Solid, which uses existing World Wide Web Technology to build a decentralized digital ID and data storage platform. And tied for third place was Blockcerts, which is an open standard that empowers people with control over sharing and verifying their documents and credentials, and Sthan, which replaces postal addresses with a privacy-protecting reimagination of what it means to physically locate a person or place. Moving forward, ID4D will work with the winner, runners up and other teams to further develop their ideas and identify options for pilots and implementation.

“Privacy is incredibly important, not just for the developed world, but for everyone, everywhere. Simprints is thrilled to be working with the World Bank on the Mission Billion Challenge to make genuine informed consent a reality,” said Toby Norman, CEO, Simprints.

Mission Billion was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Australian Government, and the Omidyar Network and was powered by the MIT Solve platform, an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that uses open innovation and crowdsourcing to solve global challenges.

About the Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative

The World Bank Group’s Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative helps countries realize the transformational potential of digital identification. ID4D is a cross sectoral initiative that works closely with countries and partners to enable all people to exercise their rights and to access services, including to provide identification to the estimated 1 billion people currently without one. ID4D has three pillars of activity: country and regional engagement; thought leadership; and global convening and platforms. The ID4D agenda supports the achievement of the World Bank Group’s two overarching goals: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and promoting shared prosperity. ID4D is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Omidyar Network, and the Australian Government.

About MIT Solve

MIT Solve is an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that advances lasting solutions from tech entrepreneurs to address the world's most pressing problems. Solve issues four Global Challenges each year to find the most promising Solver teams who will drive transformational change. Solve then deploys its global community of private, public, and nonprofit leaders to form the partnerships these Solver teams need to scale their impact. Last year, more than 1,150 people from 110 countries submitted solutions to Solve’s four Challenges. Solve’s current open Challenges include: (1) Circular Economy, (2) Community-Driven Innovation, (3) Early Childhood Development, and (4) Healthy Cities.

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