Personal identifying data is the Holy Grail for business, government and also the black-market. Business models of the world’s largest companies are powered by access to the personal data of millions of users both willingly given and covertly acquired. Locally everyone collects your data and claims it for themselves, a prized resource that yields competitive advantage. Governments by nature and mandate seed the identity of the global populace in a restricted and boundary driven geopolitical space. The black-market is home to profiteers who are after a quick dime dealing in information of the personal kind; fleecing, extorting and holding at random hapless folk.
I am scared. Scared by the fact that I have no idea where different pieces of me as represented by government and institutional documentation lie, their state and their current use. If I can feel this vulnerable, what of others? Do you even care? Perhaps you are lost in the ebb and flow of life to realize that as this moment in time you do not have any control or visibility of your identity and very plainly put you exist in a million little pieces.
It becomes very difficult to deal with issues such as terrorism and cybercrime in an environment where we can pick and drop identities on demand. Any time I walk into a building in Nairobi, I am subjected to an identity parse and often times I leave my identity card with the promise that I will be back for it and when I do come back, a human verified record of me is left behind. Logical but deeply flawed reasoning since the expertise at River Road coupled with hi-resolution photos we share on social media and a quick ping on the numerous globally crowd-sourced address books readily available on mobile I can be anyone. How many if you look anything like the picture in your national identity card? The horror stories we can conjure up could paralyze you.
I am not sure what the remedy is, or if it can be rolled out at scale, but it needs to begin with a single source of truth and probably by government since going private sector alone on this will also prove tricky. We are cleaning up the land registry and we can do the same for our citizen registry. Government records us and this should be captured in an indelible, irrefutable form; block chain maybe. Then everyone else appends or reads additional metadata from it with real-time alerts to the person whose data is being accessed or written to. The telco, the bank, the hospital, the school, the supermarket, the police, the foreign embassy, my on demand cab and food delivery service.
I hope you get the gist now and can start agitating for legislative change that will make it a reality.