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Microsoft Taps Partners in Blockchain Community To Advance Global Identity Initiative

While Microsoft was the primary technology sponsor of last month's ID2020 Summit at the United Nations, about 100 other tech providers, ranging from consultants to startups and other large companies, had a presence as well. Less than two weeks following the May 20 event at the U.N., Microsoft indicated it was a fruitful gathering.

Having attended the event, that was apparent to me but Yorke Rhodes III, blockchain business strategist at Microsoft, who also spoke at the ID2020 Summit, announced in a blog post Tuesday that Microsoft is partnering with Blockstack Labs,  ConsenSys and other developers worldwide on a system giving everyone an identity. If there were any lingering doubts before the ID2020 Summit of Microsoft's commitment, the interaction that took place there put them to rest. The U.N. has a goal of ensuring everyone an identity as part of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals announced last year, by the year 2030. In his post, Rhodes described what the ID2020 group hopes to achieve in the coming five years.

The goal is to create an "open source, self-sovereign, blockchain-based identity system that allows people, products, apps and services to interoperate across blockchains, cloud providers and organizations," Rhodes explained. "Our goal in contributing to this initiative is to start a conversation on blockchain-based identity that could improve apps, services, and more importantly, the lives of real people worldwide by enabling self-owned or self-sovereign identity."

The latter part is key. While most of those reading this likely have some form of legal identity, perhaps a driver's license, bank account or passport, not to forget numerous online accounts, there are 1.5 billion people around the world who have no such identity. Rhodes shared some other statistics presented at last month's ID2020 Summit:

  • One in three children under the age of five does not officially exist because their birth has not been recorded.
  • Cumulatively, 230 million children under the age of five have no birth certificate. This number is growing.
  • 50 million children are born without legal identity, the size of the UK, each year.

Rhodes maintains that it's possible to implement a self-sovereign identity management system using components of blockchain-based systems. By partnering with Blockstack Labs and ConsenSys to leverage their Ethereum-based identity solutions and stealth provider uPort, Rhodes said the goal is to collaborate on an open source initiative "to produce a cross-chain identity solution that can be extended to any future blockchains or new kinds of decentralized, distributed systems."

As noted last week, there are many obstacles to overcome. Besides technical interoperability, coming up with geo-political consensus and a governance structure for this model will be a complex effort, to say the least. But the wheels are now in motion. Microsoft, which has identified identity management as a key component of its technology stack, intends to play a major role in the effort to see how blockchain may play a part in the future of all credentials.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 06/01/2016 at 1:03 PM


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