Verifying the Next Billion Users

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Today, when we think about the verifying the identities of the next billion users, we think about how we can use our existing Know Your Customer (‘KYC’) programs and Customer Identification Program (‘CIP’) requirements for people living in remote areas of the world. This mindset is not only shortsighted but also ignores many people who do not fall under the traditional next billion users demographic.

When business leaders refer to ‘the next billion users,’ they are directly referring to those living in BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – large industrialized countries that are increasing their global presence through rapid growth and economic influence. It is said that without these four countries, global growth would be below 4%.

When we think about the topic of identity, however, and those who are attempting to solve identity-related challenges, “the next billion users” include far more than just those within these emerging markets. Challenges across identity pose significant social and economic consequences. For 1.5 billion people across the globe, including countries such as the United States, the inability to prove their identity restricts them from access to not only financial services, but also basic social welfare.

Having an identity (and being able to verify and protect that identity) is a prerequisite for accessing numerous financial and social services. Individuals that lack official forms of identification are generally unable to open bank accounts, restricting their ability to manage wealth and to protect themselves from unexpected crises, including natural disasters. Without a legal identity, they are often denied access from finding employment, enrolling in school, receiving healthcare benefits – perpetuating a cycle of systemic poverty that is difficult to break. We are seeing this today on television screens from reporters following the Syrian refugee crisis.

Therefore, the challenges of our industry our vast, and certainly not limited to solving for the next one billion users.

In order to begin solving identity-related challenges, we have to understand what exactly is identity. Here at OWI, we recently ran an experiment where we asked 50 people, from across the globe, two distinct questions – “Who are you?” and “What does identity mean to you?” When asked these two questions, almost no one put the same answer for both questions. This clear disparity between how we view ourselves and how we define identity is a critical issue when we look at building universal identity solutions.

Based on this survey, we were able to boil down people’s responses into 5 main categories:

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We can boil these 5 down even more to just two main categories — tangible and intangible.

When we analyzed the results of our study, we found something very interesting: The younger the person, the more they associated their identity with elements that are digital and intangible. In other words, younger people are more likely to view their identity as defined by social media.

On the other hand, the older the person, the more they associated their identity with elements that are more physical and tangible in nature, such as a passport or Social Security card.

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*The equilibrium age, where half the time folks were split on physical vs. digital, was around 35-year-old.

So, why must we define identity?

In the West, we view identity as a human right. It is one thing that we own and shape. We go through our entire lives forging and re-shaping our identities. Generally speaking – we all work hard growing up to go to good schools to get good jobs. We pay our bills on time to have good credit to get a home loan. We treat people nicely and with respect to build relationships and grow our social networks. We shape who we are and who we are dictates what products and services we have access to. Building proper identity solutions help to expand this human right to those aptly referred to as, ‘The Next Billion Users’.
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Travis is the Founder and CEO of One World Identity. Prior to OWI, he was the Global Head of Identity Verification at Google responsible for Google's KYC and IDV strategy and operations. Travis also spent time at Deloitte Consulting, Citibank, and a few startups he founded in his early 20s. Travis earned a bachelor's degrees in finance and economics from the University of South Florida. GPG Fingerprint: 73B5 6240 2B68 E63A 3FBE 2830 EFAE B4A5 9637 8945