The global digital ID trend is going to get a boost from the Gates Foundation. The charity has announced $200 million in funding for “Digital Public Infrastructure”, highlighting the potential of digital ID in the effort toward achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
The funding was announced last week during the Goalkeepers event, which itself runs during the UN General Assembly. Goalkeepers is a Gates Foundation initiative launched in 2017 that is aimed at gathering powerful individuals to help in the effort toward the UN’s SDGs.
The $200 million “Digital Public Infrastructure” fund was announced as part of a larger, $1.27 billion package that includes commitments for fighting endemic disease ($912 million), alleviating the global food crisis ($100 million), improving child nutrition ($20 million), and funding the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE) in Rwanda ($50 million).
The Foundation’s “Digital Public Infrastructure” concept “encompasses tools such as interoperable payment systems, digital ID, data-sharing systems, and civil registry databases,” it explained in a statement. The Foundation argues that these technologies can help low- and middle-income countries to improve resilience against food insecurity, disease, and climate change, and that they can also help to foster economic growth.
While the Gates Foundation’s announcement uses the term “digital ID” broadly, it’s clear that mobile ID technology is of strong interest to at least one of the charity’s founders. In an interview with Scroll.in, Melinda French Gates talked about the ‘powerful opportunities’ that mobile devices offer that “we don’t even realise yet,” noting that mobile devices can help to empower women in more patriarchal countries through solutions like digital wallets. She also suggested that mobile technology can help to foster the spread of digital accounts and other aspects of the kind of Digital Public Infrastructure to which the Gates Foundation has committed.
The funding’s announcement arrives at a time of accelerating digital and mobile ID activity around the world, and particularly in Europe, where the regulatory environment is now actively encouraging the development of the technology. Those activities could help the Gates Foundation and its partners to make the case for digital ID in other parts of the world going forward.