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Event Recap: SSI for Economic Empowerment—Lessons from Africa

The worldwide adoption of self-sovereign identity (SSI) has the potential to increase people’s access to goods and services, including for disadvantaged individuals across the globe. For example, more than one billion people in the world do not have a government ID¹, causing them to be excluded from a variety of services like banking and healthcare. If done properly, SSI can empower disadvantaged individuals with a digital identity that they control and can easily prove to others.

 

Trinsic discussed these topics and more as we participated in a panel discussion titled “SSI for Economic Empowerment: Lessons from Africa” at the Hyperledger Global Forum 2021. Anna Johnson, Trinsic’s Director of Marketing, was the panel moderator, and the four panelists were:


All four of the companies listed above are implementing SSI solutions within the African continent, and three of the four (Kiva, Yoma, and Farmer Connect) are using Trinsic to do so. In this event, the panelists shared insights from each of their respective SSI projects which range from empowering African youth to build a digital CV to connect them to future employers to empowering smallholder farmers with supply chain credentials that make some of them bankable for the first time. Below is the video recording and some highlights from the discussion.

The recording

Discussion highlights

One of the main points of discussion revolved around identifying the unique properties of SSI that make it adept at economically empowering people in Africa. The panelists had varying thoughts and perspectives to share.

 

Lohan from Yoma focused on the fact that many people in Africa do not have any form of identity—not even a national identity. He explained that SSI will make a massive impact from an economic perspective because SSI makes it possible for those who have no form of identity to build it up from scratch to the point where they have access to services they may have not had access to before. He also talked about the fact that people can take the credentials wherever they go (even cross-border) and use them to prove things about themselves and unlock economic opportunities.

 

Bryan from Kiva talked specifically about two SSI properties that Kiva’s stakeholders find of value. The first is the ability to have peer-to-peer connections where the verifier of the credential doesn’t have to “phone home” to the issuing party to authenticate a credential. The second is the ability to support multiple credential issuers without having to harmonize or sync their databases.

 

As the discussion continued, the panelists talked about the current challenges they are facing with implementing their SSI solutions in Africa.

 

Fabian from Farmer Connect brought up their focus on solving the end user adoption challenge which is due to multiple factors including end users’ literacy, access to cellular networks, or lack of smart phones. He stressed the importance of making the technology inclusive enough to address these circumstances.

 

Thea from Diwala also focused on end user adoption and specifically mentioned the challenge of onboarding. She explained that in remote areas, people may not have an email or a phone number, so standard onboarding methods become much more complicated. She emphasized the importance of teaching digital literacy where needed and the importance of building solutions that are inclusive so no one gets left behind.

 

To wrap up the discussion, the panelists discussed what was needed for SSI to be ultimately successful in Africa. Overall, the panelists shared the same sentiment that can be summarized with a quote from Thea when she said, “I think the future for SSI [in Africa] is collaboration. We all need to work together in terms of building the standards, building open source, and understanding how we actually enable this ecosystem to work across the whole sector.”

Notes

  1. According to the World Bank Group’s 2018 Identification for Development Global Dataset