Mission Billion Challenge

It is estimated that one billion people, predominantly those in developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, lack the means to prove their identity, often resulting in social, economic and political exclusion. The identification gap has been recognised by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as a key barrier to progress, reflected in SDG 16.9 which has its aim to “by 2030, provide legal identity to all, including birth registration”. There have been many efforts from industry, international organisations and governments to take steps to address this gap, which often affects the most vulnerable in society – women, children and refugees. Related to this challenge are a number of persistent issues which the World Bank is seeking to draw attention to with its newly launched Mission Billion Challenge. The aim of this initiative is to focus each year on addressing a single issue related to digital identity by drawing attention to the issue and inviting organisations and innovators to submit solutions that would help to address the issue.

In its first year, the Mission Billion Challenge will be focussing on the issue of ‘Privacy and user control of their identification’ and more specifically on ‘how can digital identification systems in developing countries be designed to protect people’s privacy and provide them with greater control over their personal data?’. In the design of any identity solution, it is important to reflect upon the issue of privacy and consider the challenges in developing countries which often may not have adequate laws and regulations to safeguard the privacy of their citizens’ data. Coupled to this too is often a lack of awareness, on the part of the users of the systems, of the information that they are sharing and how it will be used. Mobile network operators (MNOs), who are already regulated by local Telecoms authorities or ministries, are very familiar with and experienced in this topic having developed a set of Mobile Privacy Principles to address some of the challenges associated with the collection and storage of personal information. These Principles are designed to be incorporated into the design of any mobile solution and include taking into account:

  • Openness, transparency and notice
  • Purpose and use
  • User choice and control
  • Data minimisation and retention
  • Respecting user rights
  • Security
  • Education
  • Children and adolescents
  • Accountability and enforcement


The aim of these principles is to help MNOs and other digital ecosystem players to design digital solutions that give users choice and control over their personal data and how they are being used. This is particularly important to consider in the case of low literacy where citizens may not fully understand the data protection and privacy risks inherent in some systems, and also where sensitive information might be collected (for example gender, race or religion). Identity solutions that have incorporated ‘privacy by design’ features include minimal data collection, randomised unique identity number allocation and tokenization.

The GSMA works closely with the World Bank’s ID4D team to support the achievement of UN’s SDG 16.9 and looks forward to learning about the winning solution to this first challenge in March 2019. The Vice-President of World Bank shares more.

Are you working to improve the design of digital identity and want to learn more? Watch the Mission Billion Challenge webinar that took place on Thursday 13 December.


Watch the webinar

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