Gravity: A Decentralized Solution To Create Trusted Private Digital Identities For Real-Life Use On Tezos
In this long-read article, we explore Gravity who are building a decentralized solution to create trusted digital identities for real-life use, that are private, portable and persistent.
Gravity provides a decentralized solution to create trusted digital identities for real-life use, that are private, portable and persistent.
Gravity is built on the Tezos blockchain and is an ID2020 certified digital identity solution that adheres to the highest standards for user-management, privacy-protection, portability and interoperability.
Gravity has projects with: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Norwegian Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Save the Children.
Besides humanitarian aid solutions, Gravity also provides an identity solution for lending applications. For this purpose they signed a partnership with a digital lender in Kenya and deployed a data sharing platform for the Digital Lending Association in Kenya (DLAK), which makes real-time credit sharing available to DLAK’s 11 million borrowers.
Gravity also signed a letter of intent and is developing a solution for a top-tier FMCG in Kenya pilot project launch. Last but not least, they signed a partnership with an Africa-focused retail consulting firm to push the system to their clients.
The Current Landscape
“Approximately 1.5 billion people worldwide do not have an official proof of identity. For this reason, they lack access to basic services like insurance, loans or mobile communication.”
This issue hits hardest amongst an already vulnerable group of people who have lesser access to government institutions than the more fortunate inhabitants of certain countries.
Factors that can play a part in this issue can be lack of general knowledge, the general- or financial status of someone, lack of education, lack of trust in governmental institutions or even a total lack of opportunities to obtain an official government ID.
Without a proof of identity, people cannot access many essential services like opening a bank account, receive salary, access public utilities, use e-commerce services, or voting.
When there is a lack of identity, the current procedure to establish identity is to go to the community of which the individual is part of and literally ask around for validation of personal data.
This might sound absurd, but it is an actual existing procedure that is practiced by, for example, humanitarian aid organizations. When the social security provided by governments is weak or even absent, communities provide the lack thereof. This often goes hand in hand with a strong and cohesive social structure where social validation has long been used to establish identity.
Gravity taps into those qualities and is built to establish identities in a decentralized and immutable registered manner in strong communities within countries with weak institutions.
Besides offering a more efficient, secure and costs-effective method, Gravity provides a way for users to share this data more widely through the use of mobile phones.
To adapt to the needs of a wide range of users with varying access to mobile phones, Gravity’s decentralized identity solution works for all types of phone users—including smartphone users, basic mobile phone users, and even, in the case of humanitarian aid support, users who do not have any mobile phone—without the need for internet access.
Gravity does not exclude the use of official government ID systems, it can be used to establish identity through both alternative means and government ID systems.
Gravity’s decentralized identity solution helps empower individuals at the bottom-of-the-pyramid to gain ownership and agency over their data, accelerating their path towards financial inclusion.
Gravity provides a solution for individuals to build trusted identities that are private, portable and persistent.
An identity will be built on several sources of information. Biometric data such as voice or fingerprints form the basis that ties the identity to the data. Then more data is added. Date, place of birth, education, health data, credit history, etc. Then entities, important figures in a community and institutions can vouch and validate the data.
This way, anyone can establish a trusted identity that is independent from public infrastructures and is non-dependent on official identity documents, postal addresses or banking systems.
The personal data is stored in an encrypted manner to ensure privacy, which means that no one can read your personal data. Only the user (Gravity refers to users as “beneficiaries”) can decide which data they want to share and when. If anyone wants to access the data, the owner must approve. (Through sms or through the Gravity App)
With this secure digital wallet, Gravity users can safely share this data with organisations to access key services such as humanitarian aid, financing and educational resources, accelerating their path towards financial inclusion.
Gravity and Tezos
Gravity is built on the Tezos blockchain, making it the basis for our decentralized identity protocol. Currently, the DID Manager, a key component of Gravity’s decentralized identity protocol, is on the Tezos blockchain.
Gravity continues to explore the possibility of building more on-chain components on Tezos moving forward.
“Gravity is built on Tezos because the Tezos ecosystem aligns with Gravity’s high security standards (Gravity adheres to W3C standards) and our vision for a digital identity platform that builds trusted digital identities on blockchain that are private, portable and persistent.
We believe in Tezos’ focus on formal verification of smart contracts and on-chain governance, which allow for everyone to participate by submitting proposals to be voted on to update the Tezos environment.”
According to Gravity co-founder Johannes Ebert:
“As an alternative to hard forks, the Tezos ecosystem’s democratic, community-based, decentralized form of on-chain governance is also consistent with Gravity’s vision for our own ecosystem. Like Tezos, Gravity’s solution focuses on decentralizing and community-sourcing as many components of our protocol as possible to comply with the latest W3C standards.”
Lastly, Tezos fits within Gravity’s human-centric vision which values community-based input and a decentralized approach to create more innovative and effective solutions that truly meet the needs of all stakeholders.
Currently, Gravity’s public keys (authentication, assertionMethod and keyAgreement public keys) are all stored on Tezos. Gravity is also thrilled to have recently implemented the famous TZIP-16 standard, which provides a standardized location and shape of contract metadata, easing the integration, discoverability and querying of Tezos smart contracts for applications, explorers, and wallets.
According to Gravity’s Lead Developer François Guérin,
“With this TZIP-16 standard implementation, Gravity can now provide off-chain metadata during the resolution of DID Documents from DIDs.“
Gravity is fortunate to take part in projects alongside a diverse, global community of organizations, including:
⦁ United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
⦁ Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) in Kenya
⦁ Gaziantep Chamber of Industry (GSO) in Turkey
⦁ Gaziantep Chamber of Artisans & Craftsmen (GESOB) in Turkey
⦁ Stawika, a digital lender based in Kenya
⦁ Red Rose, a cash transfer management solution for humanitarian aid
Gravity also signed a partnership with PwC France and East Africa to collaborate on Digital Identity.
Current use-cases and clients
Gravity mainly operates in Sub-Saharan Africa, where people without official identities are at higher risk of falling through the cracks in the current system.
Organisations are often unable to provide efficient and affordable services because they lack access to verifiable information about their customers and beneficiaries. For example:
⦁ Humanitarian organisations struggle to coordinate their joint efforts because they cannot easily share data about beneficiaries between each other in a way that respects the privacy of these vulnerable populations. As such, each organisation enrolls the same people, leading to duplication and inefficiencies.
⦁ Financial Service Providers (FSP) in Africa are unable to provide affordable financing to small merchants and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) because they lack specific information about stock purchases, sales and credit history. This results in an unmet demand for credit totaling $330 billion.
With Gravity staff based in Nairobi, Kenya and Paris, France, Gravity currently has 3,000 people across Kenya and Turkey registered on their Gravity platform. During the DIGID pilot project that just launched this April, Gravity aims to register additional individual users in both rural and urban parts of Kenya to help them gain access to necessary humanitarian aid.
The Gravity team will also be registering 1,000 small businesses in Kenya via their supply chain finance vertical to help merchants in Africa access affordable credit and financing.
Gravity has three main use-cases: Humanitarian aid solutions, Lending solutions and Government Identity solutions.
Quoted from the Gravity Business Overview:
Gravity has two main projects in progress in the humanitarian aid space. The DIGID project in particular is a well-known project run by some of the largest NGOs in the world.
DIGID – Dignified Identities for Cash Programming
DIGID Consortium: Norwegian Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Save the Children
Launch: April 2021
Project Summary: Project implemented with the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) to leverage decentralized identity for Cash Transfer Programming with vulnerable populations. The goal is to improve coordination of the humanitarian response between organisations by sharing enrollment efforts, removing duplicates and minimizing errors, while also improving data privacy and security of sensitive personal data.
⦁ Inclusivity: Provide vulnerable populations with agency over their identity by building interfaces for basic phones, offering Guardianship services and embedding verifiable credentials in paper QR Codes for vulnerable populations that do not have access to a smartphone.
⦁ Interoperability: a) Leverage existing beneficiary management systems (i.e. Red Rose) as sources for credentials. b) Ensure interoperability with other decentralized ID systems.
⦁ Leverage trust: Work with stakeholders (i.e. government, telecommunication providers) to accept digital credentials issued by trusted humanitarian organisations as acceptable Know-Your-Customer (KYC) documents for SIM card registration.
More information https://hiplatform.org/digid
Deployment: We are deploying a dedicated decentralized ID system for DIGID. Our goal is to encourage other humanitarian organisations to deploy and build on this decentralized ID system in the future. This system will comprise most of our core services.
⦁ Enterprise bridge module – Red Rose: Red Rose is a beneficiary management and Cash Distribution management system used by 28 Humanitarian Organisations to manage aid distribution to +50 million beneficiaries. It is also used by the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS). Therefore, as part of the DIGID project, the Red Rose system will issue credentials to Gravity Digital Identity wallets.
⦁ Cloud credential wallet evolution: Due to the lack of smartphones, the DIGID project will rely on cloud wallets combined with a Guardianship service and interfaces for basic phones (USSD). Or data storage to ensure compliance with emerging SDS and Universal Wallet Interop standards and, as a consequence, seamless communication with the mobile ID wallet developed by Spruce ID in the medium term.
Education credentials for Syrians under temporary protection in Turkey
Client: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Project Summary: We are currently deploying our ID solution with UNDP and the Gaziantep Chamber of Industry where Syrian refugees use Gravity to grow a verifiable education profile based on digital certificates from the different livelihood training programmes they are participating in. The goal is once again to improve the coordination of the livelihood education efforts in Gaziantep, Turkey.
Currently, hundreds of organisations are providing training to 4 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. However, without any central registries or data sharing: (1) there is no visibility into how many beneficiaries have been reached and (2) it is impossible to provide the right training to the right person at the right time. Gravity’s ID solution aims to address these two challenges in Turkey.
Identity for Financial Inclusion
Supply chain finance
The problem: There are 40 million merchants in Africa that face a collective shortage of affordable credit of $330 billion. Most of these financing needs are to buy stock from suppliers. Small shops (“dukas”) are still the main distribution channel for consumer goods in Africa.
The reason for this credit gap is that lenders do not have access to enough reliable information on merchants to sufficiently de-risk them. In addition, lenders can’t be sure that the money given to lenders is really being spent on supplies.
- a) Private and secure information sharing: With Gravity, merchants can bring important pieces of information from many different sources together on a secure digital identity wallet (i.e. their mobile money statement, the transaction history with their supplier). They can then share this information with lenders to access credit.
- b) Earmarked token credit: Merchants receive this credit in the form of digital tokens that they can easily spend using a USSD menu (like M-pesa). Merchants can only spend these digital tokens on supplies, which will, in turn, ensure an increase in sales for suppliers.
⦁ Lenders can provide cheaper loans at a profit
⦁ Merchants control their data and build a credit history
⦁ Suppliers increase their sales
⦁ Signed partnership with a digital lender in Kenya
⦁ Deployed data sharing platform for the Digital Lending Association in Kenya. Lenders use this platform for real-time credit sharing of 11 million borrowers. Gravity users can pull out their records from the system as verifiable credentials
⦁ Letter of intent of top-tier FMCG to pilot in Kenya once product development is done
⦁ Partnership with an Africa-focused retail consulting firm to push the system to their clients
Deployment / Product: We are piloting a merchant app based on the Gravity decentralized identity platform. The full stack (issuance, cloud wallet, registries, enterprise bridge, etc.) will be used. “True” decentralization on a public blockchain is extremely important for this use case to fulfill the promise of privacy and user-control from the beginning.
⦁ Enterprise Bridge module – Sales Force Automation tools: Our scaling strategy for this project is through partnerships with manufacturers of consumer goods such as FMCG companies. Just like in the humanitarian sector, these companies equip their Sales Teams with software that is used to track sales and register merchants.
⦁ More partnerships: We have successfully built a system for data sharing of 11 million borrowers for DLAK that can issue verifiable credentials on request. There are also many other potential high impact data sources (government council’s business registry, driver’s licenses, mobile operators).
Government Identity – Open Standards Identity APIs (OSIA)
About: The Government identity space is quickly changing. Launched by Secure Identity Alliance (SIA) in 2018, Open Standards Identity APIs (OSIA) is a global initiative aimed at solving the interoperability challenges within the identity sector.
More specifically, the OSIA Initiative aims to modularize Government identity systems and define API standards between these different modules. One consequence of this initiative is that citizens will be able to choose identity wallets that are compatible with OSIA and request credentials from the Government system.
Progress: Gravity is contributing to API definition in the OSIA Working Group for ID usage. We are also collaborating with IDEMIA and others in the OSIA Working Group to create the demo “From enrollment to credential”.
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