Insights & Analyses

Stateless Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar will get blockchain-based digital IDs

December 21, 2017

Rohingya Muslims, the world’s largest stateless minority, will have better access to services like hospitals, education and banking, thanks to a new blockchain-based digital identity initiative.

The Rohingya Project plans to issue its first 1,000 digital IDs to Rohingya in Malaysia, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia beginning in 2018, according to Reuters. There are more than 4 million Rohingya Muslims around the world who are stateless, since the nation of Myanmar stopped recognizing them in 1982.

In recent months, some 650,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh, forced out by the Buddhist majority in Myanmar. But the nation of Bangladesh believes the Rohingya should go back to Myanmar, leaving the stateless people without proper access to basic services.

With the project, Rohingya will prove their identity with geographical, social, language, culture and occupational tests. The digital ID will be verified and secured via blockchain, the distributed, decentralized ledger technology.

Currently in development, the Rohingya Project looks to offer an automated verification system that will accurately assess and determine the family relations and Rohingya identity.

Officials behind the project hope that it will not only allow for financial inclusion of the Rohingya community, but also uplift the people and empower them.

Beyond basic services, eventually the program hopes to allow Rohingya access to microfinancing, crowdfunding, and social entrepreneurship. Its organizers also hope that it can become a model for providing access and financial inclusion to other stateless people around the world.

As it looks to issue its first thousand digital IDs in 2018, the Rohingya Project has kicked off a crowdfunding campaign, seeing to raise RM500,000. They estimate that the launch will cost the organization about RM500 per digital ID.