AID:Tech Wants to Give Everyone an Identity and Increase Charities' Transparency - Identity Review - Identity Review | Global Tech Think Tank

The World Bank’s Identification for Development Initiative (ID4D) estimates that almost a billion people live without a form of legal identity, the majority of whom are women living in low-income countries. For these individuals, voting, opening a bank account and applying for a loan—essential functions for the modern citizen—are unfeasible. Entrepreneur Joseph Thompson wanted to change that.

The Remedy

Thompson founded AID:Tech, his startup that created an app that allows those without official legal documents to create a digital identity of their own. The blockchain format preserves the user’s identity, giving its user sole access and full ownership of his or her data.

The app’s technology has already been put into action. Its first problem to tackle? The birth of children whose parents lack formal identification.

“We’ve got projects in Tanzania where we had the first baby in the world born on the blockchain,” said Thompson. “The mother who gave birthshe owned the data for the child. So she was building a data credit profile. She could prove she got the right medicine.

Tanzania is not the only country benefiting from AID:Tech’s services—the startup is already working on financial inclusion projects in Uganda, Nigeria and Southeast Asia. Recently, Thompson announced that AID:Tech intends to help almost 40 million Europeans achieve access to financial services, as 8.6% of Europeans remain financially excluded.

The Side Project

After raising $122,000 for charity in completing Marathon des Sables in the Sahara, a grueling feat that spans six days, Thompson was curious as to where his donations ended up. When he asked the charity to which he donated though, he received an unclear answer. They lacked a way to track individual donations.

“I’m not a humanitarian or anything, but I just thought there has to be a better way for transparency and traceability of fund transfer,” Thompson said. The team at AID:Tech then developed a tool for charities on the platform called Transparency Engine, where they can trace where exactly individual donations have ended up and whether or not they have reached their intended recipients. Blockchain ensures that the tool is secure, organized and insusceptible to corruption.

Critical Acclaim

Thompson and AID:Tech’s work has not gone unnoticed. The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship gave the Game Changer of the Year award to the team, awarded for their impact within the identity realm and their pursuit of anti-corruption technology.

The United Nations’s Sustainable Development Goals—eliminating poverty and hunger, encouraging quality education, and pushing gender equality among other things—also set out to ensure that everyone has a legal identity by 2030. AID:Tech has been recognized in its effort to help the UN achieve this lofty goal and help them reach its deadline promptly.


Olivia Baker is a Tech Innovation Fellow at Identity Review from Columbia University, where she writes on tech policy and national digital identity technologies.

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