Who are you? How would you answer that question if your passport, driving license, social security number, or the deeds to your house had been stripped away?

Identity is fragile and your social and economic rights are not guaranteed. They are all built upon your ability to prove your identity. If you’re unable to prove who you say you are, your access to basic requirements such as healthcare, education, banking, and social benefits can all be denied. When it comes to accessing the economy, who you are on your documents is everything.

For over 1.1 billion people, this is a daily struggle. There are currently over a billion people without a form of verifiable identity. Without a way to prove who they are, they become ghosts in the system: they are unable to get housing or work, food stamps or medication.

Gaps in identity are most prevalent for women in low-income countries. The poorest 40% of the world’s population stand the greatest risk of being one such ‘ghost’. Varying standards of identity verification and personal documentation also lead to governments and institutions losing huge amounts of resources through fraud and misallocation.

In Nigeria, the infrastructure of identity verification is so flawed, there are said to be over 80,000 ‘ghost workers’ in the police force alone. These ‘ghost workers’ hide in plain sight: they are simply fraudulent identities, created to receive salaries.

Flawed paper documentation, unregistered births, and centralized systems of verification that do not integrate with other systems allow identity to be lost or manipulated. Documents and databases vary in how robust and secure they are, but as identity remains dependent on linking names to papers, the system will always develop cracks. Fake names are added, new identifying numbers generated, and documents are forged.

Whilst the problem is more widespread in developing countries, there are still large proportions of unverifiable people in richer countries. According to New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, up to 11 percent of U.S. adults have no government-provided photo ID. A lack of communication between organizations means that once you slip from the identity system, tougher federal requirements for identity make it difficult to ever return.

For many, identity relies on having existing identity documents or an infrastructure that can help them. In developing nations, this creates a destructive catch-22, keeping people trapped in a cycle of poverty and preventing emerging markets from growing at the same pace as the global economy.

A new universal identity

Everest is empowering all undocumented and unverified people to own their identity through biometric data and to end fraudulent transactions with a ‘cloud wallet’ using the transparency and infallibility of the blockchain.

A universal digital, biometric identity is a way for the unbanked, unverified, and undocumented to become part of the economy, without the need to own a smartphone.

It’s an identity that cannot be lost or stolen. Nor can it be duplicated or used to defraud. Everest leverages both facial and fingerprint scanning, both highly accurate forms of biometric identification. And as advances are made, we will incorporate additional sources of biometry, including iris, pulse, voice, and DNA recognition.

Using the blockchain removes the data silos between organizations and allows your identity to be your passport between different groups and grants access to value.

Everest is taking on the mission to empower the ‘ghosts’ in emerging markets to own their identity. As well as the social and economic benefits that identity brings to individuals, universal identity creates a $40 trillion opportunity in emerging markets as institutions can invest with lower risk. People will have access to banking, credit, and formal employment. Rights such as healthcare, voting, and education will no longer be denied due to an inability to prove your identity.

Learn more about Everest: https://everest.org/