Sierra Leone Launches Blockchain-Based Biometric Financial Inclusion Program for its Unbanked Citizens Amid Data Privacy Risks


Thanks to a newly launched National Digital Identity Platform(NDIP), Sierra Leoneans would be able to sign up for bank accounts and request credit facilities using their biometrics. This platform is a part of the government’s drive at providing financial access to the excluded 87% of the population.

Built on the Kiva Protocol (a blockchain digital identification system), the National Digital Identity Platform (NDIP) was launched by the Sierra Leonean government in partnership with Kiva, a Silicon Valley based micro loan company.

Rippleworks, a Californian foundation also backed the project’s implementation with $5 million in funding as well as support from the United Nations Capital Development Fund and the United Nations Development Programme.

The system is touted to be “Africa’s first blockchain and decentralised digital identity implementation,” and is designed to provide its citizens with a formal, verifiable digital identity which would allow them control their credit information and access digital financial services better.

This is because it will most likely spur reluctant banks to give loans to people who have always been excluded because of the lack of credit histories. It will also help to scale the traditional KYC method of authenticating documents by collecting printed proofs, processing them, and validating accounts.

A verified identity makes everyone’s life easier — the government, the citizens, the private sector, everyone. So it was easy to get everyone aligned about the goals and value of this initiative.

David Sengeh, Chief Innovation Officer for the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation in Sierra Leone.

In turn, this new platform will bring the millions of people and thousands of businesses into the formal economy and allow for the government to reach the citizens with more services. Startups will also find it easier to operate as the data/platform will be readily available for their solutions.

Traders in Sierra Leone. (Photo by Bestami Bodruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

But as numerous as the benefits this new program provides are, there also lie the enormous risk – privacy of data. To aid this, the government of Sierra Leone is working with several agencies to ensure citizen data is protected and citizens authorise the use of their biometrics when its needed.

Hopefully, the platform excels in Sierra Leone as it could serve as a model for countries with a large unbanked population like Nigeria.

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