Gates Foundation Awards $4M Grant To Fund Digital ID Initiative

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The Gates Foundation continues to bankroll various initiatives around the world aimed at introducing digital ID and payments by the end of this decade.

The scheme is known as the digital public infrastructure (DPI), and those pushing it include private or informal groups like the said foundation and the World Economic Forum (WEF), but also the US, the EU, and the UN.

And now, the UK-based AI and data science research group Alan Turing Institute has become the recipient of a renewed grant, this time amounting to $4 million, given by the Gates Foundation.

This has been announced as initial funding for the Institute’s initiative to ensure “responsible” implementation of ID services.

The Turing Institute is presenting its work that will be financed by the grant over the next three years as a multi-disciplinary project focused on positive issues, such as ensuring that launching DPI elements (like digital ID) is done with privacy and security concerns properly addressed.

But – given the past and multi-year activities of the Gates Foundation, nobody should be blamed for interpreting this as an attempt to actually whitewash these key issues – namely privacy and security – that opponents of centralizing people’s identities through digital ID schemes consistently warn about.

In announcing the renewed grant, the Turing Institute made it clear that it considers implementing “ID services” a positive direction, which according to the organization improves anything from inclusion, access to services and to human rights.

But apparently, some “tweaking” around privacy and security (or at least “enhancing” the perception of how they are handled in digital ID programs) – is needed. Hence, perhaps, the new initiative.

“The project aims to enhance the privacy and security of national digital identity systems, with the ultimate goal to maximize the value to beneficiaries, whilst limiting known and unknown risks to these constituents and maintaining the integrity of the overall system,” the Institute said.

A lot of big words, and positive sentiment – but, in simpler words, what the statement amounts to is a promise to somehow “auto-magically” cover all the bases. That is – at once secure the benefits while obliterating the negatives. (Maybe the Institute has a spare bridge to sell, too /s)

The worry here is that this could be yet another Gates Foundation PR blitz aimed at improving the image of the mistrusted, by rights-minded people, “DPI” push – a distrust that in no insignificant part stems from not trusting its biggest proponents as having any genuinely noble intentions to begin with.

An interesting piece of information that we do learn from the announcement is that every year, “billions of dollars are being invested to develop more secure, scalable, and user-friendly identity (digital ID) systems.”

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