Microsoft and Accenture are teaming up with the United Nations to help provide a legal identity for everyone on the planet. The ID2020 initiative, led by a consortium of public and private partners, is working to create a standardized ID for nearly 1.1 billion people who currently lack one. The lack of a legal identification can inhibit people from accessing government services, create huge burdens for travelers (particularly refugees) and prevent effective personalized health care due to lack of medical history. 

The companies are putting their hopes in using biometrics, or unique physical characteristics such as fingerprints or iris scans, and combining them with the open-ledger blockchain technology to create a form of ID that cannot be lost or destroyed. Blockchain acts as a database system that enables multiple parties to share access to the same data with an extremely high level of confidence and security. And to further satisfy the needs for privacy and security, the prototype will not store any personally identifiable information, instead tapping into existing “off-chain” systems when the individual user grants access.

“This is a great example of design and technology coming together to address the challenges facing so many vulnerable individuals in our society today,” said Accenture’s Lorna Ross in a press release. “We hope that this work will galvanize efforts globally toward a solution that guarantees the right to an identity for the invisible everywhere.”