Monique Morrow

Chief Technology Strategist

Why We Need to Build A Humanized Internet

June 14, 2016

This is the reality. Today, 1.5 billion people are unable to prove their own identity. 25 million people in the world are internally displaced within their country of origin. 230 million children under the age of 5 do not have a legal identity while there are currently 60 million stateless people and refugees.This involuntary displacement is largely due to war and famine. We are experiencing extreme population shifts. Migration rates, both voluntary and involuntary, are increasing. International migration issues include, but are not limited to, human trafficking, border crossing, citizenship, and an impact on the global economy.

Overwhelmed yet? I realize that was a lot of macro numbers and ideas. Let’s zoom in now to one individual person. What exactly does it mean to be stateless person? To be unable to prove your identity?

“It’s like I don’t exist,” 25-year old Khalid Yasin said to Al Jazeera. Khalid graduated at the top of his high school class, but no college would accept him. “I can’t do anything without an ID number. My business isn’t in my name, I can’t go to university, I can’t own an apartment, I can’t even get married legally. I’m not a citizen anywhere—everywhere I go, I am illegal.”

Identity is a human right, and 1.5 billion people don’t have one right now.

Khalid Yasin

This represents a problem at global scale that is growing – children and adults that are invisible to society, ones that don’t exist and as such become vulnerable to human trafficking and child abuse. If people don’t have proof of their identity, they don’t have evidence of their existence. As result, these people can disappear without a trace. Many of these people who disappear are girls, sold into sexual slavery. Many are victims of war, of politics, inhumanity, human trafficking.

As part of the annual United Nations Summit, I attended the inaugural ID2020 Summitat the UN Headquarters in New York. Over 250 delegates from more than 50 technology businesses, NGOs, advisory firms came together to tackle one of the biggest challenges facing humanity today: proof of legal identity.

The goal of ID2020 was aligned with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which aims to “provide legal identity to all, including birth registration, by 2030, and to help create a future where every human being as access to identity services.”

The day was eye-opening and inspiring. It pushed us to radically rethinking our current economic, social and environmental approaches in order to build a new universal agenda to establish human rights for all and reach gender equality and empowerment. While there are certainly many challenges ahead to reach this goal, I and many of us at ID202 agreed that technology will pave the way.

One simple reason a technology solution is vital is today’s reality. As Chris Skinner pointed out in a blog post he created after the event, “All in all, it is clear that human trafficking is a problem of identity.  The first thing that the abusers do when they abduct someone is destroy their identification papers.  That is why we need to get rid of paper and create a digital identification system.”

Myself, along with a brilliant team—Vivian Shen, Mark Kovarski and Aron Dutta—presented the idea of building a humanized internet with what we call “Freedom-As-A-Service” (FaaS) at the core. This idea is a model which is self-organizing and allows for people to take control of their own destiny. By empowering a new era of personal innovation, creativity and free-thinking lifestyles, the Humanized Internet will be built with new models and values in mind centered on the 5 P’s, which include:

  • People: This is human centric and empowered. People-powered platforms are forging interconnections between users and communities globally.
  • Purpose: To create meaningful experiences. People driven initiatives to embody a larger mission to create solutions that work for and with all stakeholders. There is more than one channel of communication and the notion that everyone can further his or her purpose is life changing.
  • Participation: This is value shared and co-created. The power of participation    to accelerate innovation.
  • PlatformsTo drive interaction. Technology, connectivity and mobile networks, to amplify human interactions with powerful data.
  • Productivity: To be faster and more efficient. Crowd applications for civic activities, disaster relief and humanitarian work are creating widespread impact already.

These are the ideas behind the five P’s, with Identity being at the core and the key control parameter of freedom and security in the modern socio-economic system.

The building blocks for the Freedom-As-A-Service economy is all about empowering people, refugees and immigrants. This is an example of the 16 blocks that could allow the next generation of on-demand Freedom-As-A-Service service creations, which would create entire new services which refugees or immigrants could access directly versus having to go through corporations only.

The new traits which would emerge for the collaborative economy and FaaS would include connecting distributed networks of people, immigrants, refugees and assets. Providing access to goods and services through bartering, renting, lending, trading, leasing, swapping, etc. Allowing for groups or networks of individuals to collaborate to produce and distribute goods. Enabling learning experiences and resources that are open to anyone, anywhere. This would also allow for the sharing of funding and lending opportunities. The whole system would be based on Distributed Autonomous Organizations/Blockchains at the center.

The entire day was captured by a graphic designer who illustrated our discussions and breakout sessions.

Today, we are at a special moment in time, where digital has the ability to completely transform the way in which we do things. When it comes to identity, we must continue to bring together the best and brightest to capitalize on innovation and new technologies to transform today’s reality and support the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.