Sierra Leone puts national ID cards on the blockchain

President Dr Julius Maada Bio
SIERRA LEONE: President Bio announces the rollout of blockchain-based national ID system

The government of Sierra Leone is to introduce a blockchain-based national identity system at the end of this year, enabling citizens to “grant access to approved institutions to assert and verify identity and also build credit histories,” the country’s president has announced.

The National Digital Identity Platform (NDIP) has been developed in partnership with the United Nations and financial services nonprofit Kiva and is being implemented in two steps.

“First, we will digitise identities,” President Dr Julius Maada Bio explained. “Second, we will use that digital identity as the unique nationally recognised identifier called the National Identification Number that is non-duplicating and non-reusable, around which the credit reporting and lookup apparatus is built as well as a unique source of reference for every service delivery in the country.

“Step one has been completed; Step two will be completed by the end of this year.”

“With the new national digital identity system, financial service providers are now able to efficiently verify the identity and ultimately the credit history of a customer wanting to open an account or access a loan,” he added.

“This directly translates into citizens having improved access to affordable credit to invest in entrepreneurial endeavours and to also meet consumption or financial shocks that occur as a result of life events.

“Access to credit and financial services can significantly improve the lives of citizens by making citizens more financially resilient. Further, it will strengthen and expand the private sector, the backbone of any modern economy.

“For the first time in Sierra Leone there is now a pathway for farmers in rural communities, for instance, to access the capital needed to invest in their farms, increase production and therefore improve their earnings.

“For women, young persons, and persons with disabilities, meaningful financial inclusion is now possible through this new national digital identity platform. They now have an opportunity to engage in entrepreneurship in an increasingly digital economy.”

Self-sovereignty

“I am proud to note that the new digital identity system is built with clear guidelines on principles of self-sovereignty to protect information from unauthorised access,” the President said.

“Ultimately, it is Sierra Leoneans who own their data and it is they who should decide with whom they share that data and how that data is used.

“Data on every person resident in Sierra Leone stored with the NCRA [National Civil Registration Authority] will be protected with strict confidentiality in line with international guidelines and practices.

“Another advantage of the technology is that any time information is modified, a record of that transaction is created.”