Linux for Everyone—All 7.5 Billion of Us

While all that sounds very First World-ish, it also was designed with refugees in mind. Phil Windley, chair and president of the nonprofit Sovrin Foundation, which created Indy, addresses the issue here:

Descartes didn't say "I have a birth certificate, therefore, I am." We are, obviously, more than a legal identity. Nevertheless, the civil registration has been with us for almost four centuries and most of us cannot conceive of any basis for trusted identity independent of civil registration.

And yet, presently, 1.8 billion people are without this basic form of identity. As a result, they have difficulty getting basic government services. Most of these people are refugees displaced by war or territorial disputes, victims of famine or ethnic cleansing, outcasts from society, or victims of unscrupulous employers, smugglers, or organized crime. People who want to help them have difficulty because without legal identity they are illegible to state apparatus.

Then he advances a solution:

We are at a point in the development of identity that it is possible to develop and deploy technologies that allow individuals to create a self-sovereign basis for their identity independent from civil registration.

Such systems allow us to tease apart the purposes of the birth certificate by recognizing a self-sovereign identity independent of the proof of citizenship. This doesn't, by itself, solve the problem of providing legal identity since the self-sovereign identity is self-asserted. But it does provide a foundation upon which a legal identity could be built: specifically it is an identifier that a person can prove they control.

Sovrin/Indy is one of those. Four other efforts I know well in the space are Customer Commons, which will have terms that refugees—or anybody—can proffer, People Centered Internet, the Internet Bar Association and iRespond For example, Peter Simpson of iRespond tells me "We are combining our years of non-profit work in humanitarian identity using biometrics that work in resource-poor and remote areas of the world and linking that 'flesh to digital' with Sovrin's permission-based distributed ledger technology."

To sum this up, I see two ways we (Linux Journal readers) can help solve the refugee crisis. One is by making it as easy as possible for individual refugees to enjoy the benefits of both self-sovereign and administrative identities, while minimizing the risks. The other is to make clear how valuable many refugees are to the countries that might welcome them.

Please think about what you can do to join in any of the many efforts afoot to bring to everybody the full benefits of Linux and Linux-modeled approaches to solving problems and maximizing the variety of solutions.

Every human being has value to others as well as to themselves. We are designed that way too. Let's make the most of that.


Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal