Do you want to be a self-sovereign global citizen? Blockchain could verify that you are

Roma, the world's first blockchain baby

Roma, the world's first blockchain baby

One of our guiding ideas is a model of full and rich citizenship we call "I - We - World". Ideally, we are active at each level - confident agents in our own lives, connecting to others through collective identities we have built and believe in, and full aware of the planetary dimensions of power and communication that shape our lives. And always, trying to link them together, to build political action worthy of these transforming times. 

Not a small task. But one we are constantly trying to find tools and resources to make possible, at every level (and ideally at all levels). So we were delighted to find this co-authored blog by Paula Berman, Pia Mancini and Sandra Miller, which makes a very clear case that blockchain is the infrastructure that can support a truly global citizenship. 

Why blockchain? Because - notwithstanding its development trials and tribulations at the moment - it is a space which promises to be able to identify an individual beyond the confines of any national or continental jurisdiction. As we've noted before here, this could be vital for a migrant world increasingly on the move.

An excerpt from the blog:

Article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights stipulates that “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.” Yet, in 2018 that recognition is still not a reality to a large segment of the world. While many regions have attained universal or almost universal registration, an estimate of 15 percent of the world population, or 1.1 billion people, still lack an official ID, according to the World Bank’s Identification for Development Global Dataset (2017).  

Addressing this fundamental barrier to realising basic human rights is the reasoning behind the international community’s decision to set target 16.9 in the UN Sustainable Development Goals as: “to provide legal identity for all, including birth registration by the year 2030″.  

Yet, one of the main challenges to reaching this goal remains mostly unmeasured: this data does not account for the world’s 200+ million migrants, 21.3 million refugees, or 10 million stateless persons with either no formal identification or no access to the institutions that control it. In a world with a growing global population, increasing cross-border migration, and a severe refugee crisis, we must start thinking about new identity models capable of existing outside of territorial confines.

Under the current structure of international law, an individual can only exist as a legal person if he or she has been given that status by a state. In practical ways, human rights are dependent, and deeply interwoven with citizenship status, which is linked to the physical territory in which one is born. However, utilising digital technology for IDs that are personal, persistent, private, portable and leveraging the infrastructure of the internet as a global jurisdiction, provides a new model that can help meet the challenges mentioned above. 

Recent developments in distributed computing are allowing the rise of a new identity category: the self-sovereign identity systems. Asymmetric cryptography ensures security from the user perspective, and trust between peers can arise in a decentralised manner, with distributed collection of credentials and reputation management. Because anyone can have access to an identity and the resulting benefits without an intervening authority, they’re called “self-sovereign.” 

With trust itself enabled by technologies and not institutions, the next evolution of the Internet will be the creation of a common and open identity layer that allows people to have their own self-sovereign identity that is secure, under their control, and always available to them, with no need for intermediary permissions.

There is an utterly winning fact in this article, which almost makes the case inarguable: 

My daughter Roma [pictured at the top of this post], born in San Francisco California, became the first baby to have a blockchain-validated birth certificate (or so is claimed by NYU professor David Yermack). The process, even though symbolic at the time, is relatively simple to replicate with everyday technology...

The authors - who are members of the Democracy Earth Foundation - have an ultimate vision for the truly global politics that a blockchain verification system might bring about: 

Perhaps most critically, the greatest benefit of digital blockchain-based IDs is connected to political representation. Non-territorial specific citizenship – global citizenship – can enable a new form of governance regarding global issues: a bottom-up approach to governance on a level on top of the nation states, driven by the will of global citizens operating as digital nomads in a borderless world.

Think about climate-change agreements: if a nation-state decides to pull out, cities, individuals and collectives can still uphold the contract. Effectively creating a new governance model that renders the existing one, obsolete.

Diasporas, migrants, refugees: all of these vulnerable cohorts can be included in political decision-making. And with blockchain technology, the integrity of the vote is guaranteed and results can be trusted. This is the world we envision at Democracy Earth Foundation, a world of greater equality and justice, economic and political participation enabled by the possession of their digital self-sovereign identity and their human right to own their own vote.

We strive to find and design ways to put power back in the hands of the individual by providing incorruptible decision-making tools based on new forms of technology-enabled identity and trust.

More here.