The adventures of blockchain and the newborn daughter!

By Matthew Van Niekerk (Settlemint)

I woke this morning to my wife saying “I think its time”. Our second child was due the following day so hey, pretty darn close. I sprang into action, and we arrived at the hospital within the hour. Four hours later, our newborn daughter was letting out her first beautiful cries. Mother and child were healthy and blissfully happy to be in each other’s arms, albeit understandably quite tired.

The nurse came back into the delivery room shortly afterward and asked me to write down our newborn's full name and my full name, date of birth and place of birth for her. I searched for something to write on and the best I could come up with at the moment was a paper towel from the adjoining restroom. I handed over my credentials and off she went. 30 minutes later, she returned with the birth certificate and asked me to double check and informed me to report to town hall to officially register the birth within 3 days.

This official registration of the birth will be signed by the mayor to provide legitimacy to the birth in Belgium. However, the child will not be Belgian as I have Dutch nationality. I will then complete an online process to request a Dutch passport for our daughter and will then arrange a meeting at the Dutch embassy to request her passport and set up another meeting a few weeks later to pick the passport up, but it won’t stop there. I also have Canadian citizenship and my wife Japanese so this process will be similarly completed several times to establish the identity of our newborn daughter. Based on the experience with our first child, hopefully, all the administrative steps will be completed within 2-3 months.

This administration is gladly carried out to provide global possibilities for our daughter, and I understand the value of correct identity paperwork after having traveled extensively and having lived abroad for nearly half my life. I have considered myself a global citizen for most of these years, but what if the countries of citizenship were different? What if we did not have the developed, centralized identity management systems of Canada, the Netherlands, and Japan to rely on to establish the identity of our newborn combined with the reliable Belgian birth registration system? What fate would our young daughter’s identity face in the absence of such developed systems? Bear in mind that the integrity of everything that will end up in these highly organized central systems originated from what I wrote on the spot on a paper towel in a pinch.

We don’t have to look far today to see examples where the citizens are not so fortunate (absent the centralized systems and the trust of the nurse). Take for instance the humanitarian crisis in Syria that has driven millions of citizens to flee. Can the residents rely on the centralized systems of the land they are fleeing from? Can the countries that open their arms depend on those systems and will the Syrian state cooperate in validating identity for the generations to come who have fled the country?

The reality is that no fully centralized system can guarantee this. Perhaps it is time to seek alternatives that place the individual citizen to the world in greater control of their identity and remove the dependency on fully centralized systems and databases.  A good example is Bitnation, the world's first operational Decentralized Borderless Voluntary Nation.

I believe that distributed ledger and adjacent distributed technologies can and will provide an answer to many of the digital identity questions we face.  And in my daughters' case, steps towards blockchain notarized birth certificates are already being taken:

As the DLT challenge of Eggsplore has demonstrated, when you bring together companies with in-depth knowledge of these technologies and give them the challenge of reinventing identity management systems, an array of feasible solutions emerge that will ensure the integrity and immutability of the identity management. Many thanks to B-Hive for inviting us to this challenge!

About the author

Matthew Van Niekerk is an Economist and MBA by education. In August 2016, Matthew set up his own company, SettleMint, offering modular middleware that takes away many of the complexities of blockchain technology for clients. SettleMint has developed several working proof of concepts demonstrating the versatility of its middleware solution ‘Mint’ including document management, voting, KYC/KYB en data marketplace.