September 27, 2017
Using Blockchain to Help 1.2 Billion People Living Without an Identity
By: Nur Karadeniz

Just imagine that you’re off travelling in some far-away corner of the world, many miles from home, and thanks to some misfortune, you manage to misplace your passport and identity card.

You panic, run to the nearest police station, and get hit with the question, “How can you prove that you are who you say you are?!”.

The answer is, you can’t’, yet a staggering 1.2 billion people around the world face the challenges posed by the lack of an identity.

Enter ID2020: a global, public-private partnership dedicated to solving the challenges of identity faced by approximately one-sixth of the world’s population.


The beginning of a journey

Our team was presented with a dream brief - to leverage the multidisciplinary teams within The Dock, and the expertise within Accenture, Microsoft and Avanade to create a prototype that could impact over a billion people across the world.

Before the project began, I travelled to Turkey, where I had arranged to meet two government organisations.

The first, was a refugee registration centre in the City of Yalova. Here, we discussed the different challenges and obstacles that are faced by staff on a daily basis when they attempt to identify people arriving at the centre.

The second stop was the local registry offices in Istanbul where they identify and provide assistance to Syrians living in the borough who are not registered in the refugee camps.

The staff there were excited to offer help, and they encouraged me to visit families and listen to their stories. One of the people I met was Mesud, a former businessman from Syria.

He was providing private education for his five children. Speaking about his current situation, he said, “Having no identity and living a life with the help of donations is a big shift. I was worried more for my children, but they actually helped us by taking it so well. Seeing them playing with their new friends on the street is a big relief.”

It was an emotional experience sitting and speaking with these regular people who are completely displaced, and have no idea what the future holds for them and their families.

Hit play below to see how we worked, and what we created.


All Hands on deck at The Dock

After returning to Ireland, I met with the ID2020 Team at The Dock, and we began to shape our solution.

We analysed all the conversations and addressed the user needs as a group. This is part of the initial user research which then informed how the interactions and the design took shape.

As part of the design process, we invited wider stakeholders to The Dock and we ran a workshop where we shared the findings and highlights from the user research.

By day 7, we had the user needs, priorities and challenges listed, shared and discussed. There were tight deadlines, so we needed to move quickly; these needs were at the front of our minds when we moved to the design phase.

A Blockchain Solution

Our prototype is designed to empower individuals with direct consent over who has access to their personal information, and when that data is released and shared.

We created user journeys based on our research input and worked as a team to understand and analyse how each journey can be improved using the Blockchain.

Prior to this, our tech team created games to help designers to understand the capabilities of Blockchain.

The result?

A sophisticated decentralised, database architecture, maintained by multiple, trusted parties on the Blockchain, that eliminates the need for a central authority.


The prototype has been designed to interoperate with existing identity systems, so that personally identifiable information always resides “off chain”.

With this solution, 1.2 billion people could be provided with a steadfast personal identity record, ensuring that they can receive assistance where and when they need it.

At The Dock, we’re working to change the world using emerging technology and innovative solutions; discover more about our global multidisciplinary research and incubation hub here.

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