The Yoti Fellowship Programme, part of Yoti’s Social Impact Strategy received over 120 applications from 30 countries following its launch in April 2019. After an initial screening process, 54 proposals were shortlisted to be reviewed by a panel of experts tasked with selecting three Fellows. Among the shortlisted participants are four from India. The candidates – who represent different states, backgrounds, and industries – submitted proposals highlighting the need for enhancements to the existing digital identification system in India – Aadhaar.
A large-scale digital identity implementation in an economy with 1.35 billion people from over 700 different ethnic groups demand a long-term, open, bottom-up and well-tested process, which is secure, convenient and one which values individual privacy.
The four applications looked at a variety of important areas of Aadhaar and digital identity:
- Exploring the potential of Aadhaar which primarily started with Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) to the marginalized and disadvantaged groups. It is still the main-stay for the DBT program and the underprivileged.
- Piloting an alternative digital Know Your Customer (KYC) solution on the back of Aadhaar for cost-efficient onboarding for financial inclusion, so that the system addresses the needs of marginalized communities. Aadhaar is the most prevalent and acceptable form of identity verification.
- Researching the perception of digital identity and the variation in the scope of the same in urban (Tier 1 and 2 cities) and rural (village) settings.
- Aadhaar has provided an identity to millions in the country. With enhancements, the system can provide a wholesome and holistic one-stop identity solution within the country.
Shantaram Jonnalagadda, country head for India at Yoti explained: “It is heartening to see proposals for the Yoti Fellowship Programme from a number of applicants from India. In the era of digital identification, Aadhaar poses an interesting opportunity as a one-stop solution for the country. In a privacy driven world, data minimization and consent driven approach to identity provide a private and secure platform for individuals and businesses to prove their identity.”
“Grassroots, local innovation has always been something that has fascinated me on a personal and academic level, and it led to the publication of two very-well received books on frugal innovation and my role here at Cambridge University. We live in an age where we often find an over-emphasis on high-tech solutions and innovation, often driven from the top-down and often driven by technology from the ‘outside’. Local voices, opinions or concerns can get drowned out yet often they bring context, understanding, and ideas, which may well be better suited to the problem at hand. I agreed to be a part of the Selection Panel on the Yoti Digital Identity Fellowship Programme for these very reasons. India has become something of a living lab for digital identity, but despite the overwhelming success of biometrically capturing over a billion people, problems remain. The proposals from India are particularly exciting because they bring with them the potential to explore new lines of thinking, and an understanding of areas previously overlooked,” says Jaideep Prabhu, Nehru Professor of Indian Business at Judge Business School in Cambridge, UK.
According to Ken Banks, Yoti’s Head of Social Impact, the Fellowship Programme is an important step in gaining a better understanding of grassroots needs and opportunities for digital identity, particularly given much of the research to date has been driven by outside interests. “What we’re missing is an understanding of why people might want a digital identity, what they know about digital identity, their concerns and what tools and approaches might be missing in their local context. Without a fuller understanding of these bottom-up issues, we have little chance of developing the most useful and appropriate identity solutions. Our Fellowship Programme is designed to address these very issues.”
Yoti is a rapidly growing, global identity platform, that gives people a simple, fast and secure way of proving who they are. The digital identity app lets individuals share specific details, for instance just their name and date of birth, without revealing their whole identity; helping to protect their privacy and personal data.