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PRESS RELEASE: World Bank Group Launches Innovation Challenge to Strengthen Data Privacy and Empower the World’s ‘Invisible Billion’

One billion people are unable to prove their identity, which can exclude them from economic opportunities and vital services such as education and healthcare

Washington, DC, December 7, 2018—The World Bank Group’s Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative announced the launch of the Mission Billion Challenge to make the ‘invisible billion’—the number of people who still cannot prove who they are—visible. Mission Billion will crowdsource innovative solutions to strengthen data privacy in digital identification systems and empower users to have greater control of their personal data. The Challenge offers cash prizes totaling US$100,000 with the top prize of US$50,000 for the most promising solutions that enhance trust and protect personal data from being misused or compromised.

Despite significant progress in recent years, one billion people are still unable to prove their identity, and many more have forms of identification that cannot be reliably verified or authenticated. In the digital age, the lack of trusted identification often results in exclusion from economic opportunities, and social and political rights. 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. 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.

“Digital identification systems can play a transformational role across key areas such as financial inclusion, access to services and social safety nets, and effective humanitarian response. Yet this can also create important privacy challenges,” said Makhtar Diop, Vice President for Infrastructure, World Bank. “The Mission Billion Challenge offers an exciting opportunity to tap into the most creative minds to help us design digital identification systems to enhance data protection and empower people with greater control over their personal data.”

The Mission Billion Challenge seeks new, practical ideas for ‘privacy by design’ features that can be embedded into digital identification systems to address the potential risks that arise from collecting, using and managing personal data such as data protection and cybersecurity challenges. Strengthening trust of these systems and empowering people to have greater control over their personal data is vital to closing the identification gap. The importance of data privacy is highlighted in the Principles on Identification for Sustainable Development, which have been signed onto by 24 international organizations and development partners as being fundamental to maximizing the benefits of digital identification systems.   

Alongside this Challenge, the WBG’s ID4D Initiative is working to support approximately 40 countries on other critical features of ‘Good ID’, including developing legal frameworks that promote trust in digital identification systems, the use of technical standards to facilitate interoperability and avoid vendor and technology lock-in, and adoption of inclusive approaches.

The Challenge is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Australian Government, Omidyar Network, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. Mission Billion will be powered by the MIT Solve platform, an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that uses open innovation and crowdsourcing to solve global challenges. Through MIT’s award-winning platform, innovators and organizations, wherever they are in the world, can submit their solution to this Challenge.

“MIT’s mission inspires us to use our strengths in education, research and innovation to make a better world, and the World Bank Group’s Mission Billion Challenge represents an extraordinary opportunity for us to help advance work of significant global importance,” said MIT President, L. Rafael Reif. “In designing the MIT Solve platform, we aimed to create a global community of problem solvers: creative minds focused together on tackling intractable challenges. So we are excited for the opportunity to work with the World Bank Group’s ID4D Initiative to focus that community on ways to provide people in poverty with sound, affordable identification—a basic tool for advancing themselves and participating in modern society.”

Individuals and organizations with a strong passion for developing innovative solutions are encouraged to apply. Submitted solutions to the Challenge will be reviewed by a group of experts in digital identification, data security, and international development. Finalists will be invited to a high-level event to present their solutions in front of distinguished judges around the World Bank Group’s Spring Meetings in Washington D.C. in April 2019.

The Mission Billion Challenge is open. The submission deadline is February 24, 2019. To learn more about the Challenge, visit:

Click here to submit your solution.

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