Identity solutions firm Accenture is working with Microsoft on a digital identity initiative that uses blockchain and biometrics.In a statement, the company said blockchain and biometric technologies to support ID2020, a programme it describes as a global public-private partnership dedicated to solving the challenges of identity faced by more than 1.1 billion people around the world.The goal of ID2020 is to make digital identity a reality through a technology-forward approach that will leverage secure and well-established systems.Approximately one-sixth of the world's population cannot participate in cultural, political, economic and social life because they lack the most basic information: documented proof of their existence.Establishing identity is critical to accessing a wide range of activities, including education, healthcare, voting, banking, mobile communications, housing, and family and childcare benefits.Accenture, in partnership with Microsoft and Avanade, has developed an identity prototype based on blockchain technology – a type of database system that enables multiple parties to share access to the same data with an extremely high level of confidence and security.The prototype, which builds on Accenture's capabilities in blockchain and its experience developing and deploying large-scale biometric systems, runs on Microsoft Azure, the company's cloud platform that offers global scale, flexibility and security. The prototype is designed to empower individuals with direct consent over who has access to their personal information, and when to release and share data. It is a sophisticated decentralized, or "distributed," database architecture, maintained by multiple, trusted parties on the blockchain, eliminating the need for a central authority. The prototype does not store any personally identifiable information, instead tapping into existing "off-chain" systems when the individual user grants access. Accenture and Microsoft – founding alliance partners of ID2020 who have pledged financial and technology resources – demonstrated the prototype today at the ID2020 Summit at the U.N."People without a documented identity suffer by being excluded from modern society," said David Treat, a managing director in Accenture's global blockchain business. "Our prototype is personal, private and portable, empowering individuals to access and share appropriate information when convenient and without the worry of using or losing paper documentation." The Accenture prototype is designed to work with existing identity systems so that personally identifiable information always resides "off chain." It aligns to principles of the Decentralized Identity Foundation, of which Microsoft is a founding member, and uses the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance's private, or "permissioned," blockchain protocol.To solve problems faced by people who lack official identities face, Accenture will leverage its Unique Identity Service Platform to deploy a breakthrough biometrics system that can manage fingerprints, iris and other data. The technology can provide undocumented refugees with a steadfast personal identity record, ensuring that they can receive assistance where and when they need it. The Accenture Platform is the heart of the Biometric Identity Management System currently used by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which has enrolled more than 1.3 million refugees in 29 countries across Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. The system is expected to support more than 7 million refugees from 75 countries by 2020."We believe that identity is one of the most important needs in international development and an area where Microsoft and the private sector are uniquely positioned to contribute," said Yorke Rhodes, global business strategist at Microsoft. "We are thrilled to work with Accenture and bring Microsoft Azure's global scale, flexibility and security to support ID2020 and make progress on this critical societal need."The prototype project was led by the multi-disciplinary team at The Dock, Accenture's new research and incubation hub in Ireland. A team of designers, software engineers and experts in blockchain worked to bring the idea to life."This is a great example of design and technology coming together to address the challenges facing so many vulnerable individuals in our society today," said Lorna Ross, group director, Accenture's Fjord Design Studio at The Dock. "We hope that this work will galvanize efforts globally towards a solution that guarantees the right to an identity for the invisible everywhere."The ID2020 consortium brings together governments, NGOs, technologists and experts from the public and private sectors to ensure that the best technological innovations are implemented in ways that are scalable, secure and sustainable. Accenture had an integral role in a similar program, serving as a founding company and the consulting partner for the Partnership for Refugees, providing pro bono strategic consulting, project management and digital services. The Partnership helped more than 50 corporations better understand refugees' needs to develop effective responses across three impact areas: education, employment and enablement."One of our goals at Accenture is to improve how the world works and lives by digital technologies to solve some of our most pressing challenges," said Marty Rodgers, who leads Accenture's work with the Partnership for Refugees and is the global lead for Accenture's NGO practice. "ID2020 is another example of Accenture and our partners working together to support some of the world's most vulnerable people."