The Turing harnesses global expertise with International Advisory Board for Trustworthy Digital Identity

Wednesday 09 Dec 2020

The Alan Turing Institute is pleased to announce its International Advisory Board for Trustworthy Digital Infrastructure for Identity Systems. This initiative brings together leaders in the global effort to advance recognition for identity as a human right with trailblazers in government that are driving new opportunities with digital identity, playing a pivotal role in the Turing’s effort to apply the rigour of academic research to current developments in digital identity systems.   

“This Advisory Board is a unique forum set up to enrich understanding of our growing reliance on digital identity systems and the robust considerations needed to avoid harm, address inequalities and protect the citizens these systems are being set up to serve,” says Mark Briers, Programme Director for defence and security, The Alan Turing Institute. “Today numerous approaches to digital identity are supported by complex ecosystems of data stores, networks and interfaces with services. Data science techniques are creating strong opportunities to underpin the trust assumptions required of governments, service providers, and the many businesses and organisations that rely on these systems.”  

According to the World Bank Group’s global data set, 161 of the 175 countries known to have a national identity programme have a digital element.  Working with the International Advisory Board, the Turing’s four-year project can elevate a robust appreciation for the requirements of trustworthy identity systems, alongside the technologies and practices available to meet driving aspirations. Their contribution brings perspectives from lower income countries and developed economies and shared experience that includes direct involvement in:  

  • The World Bank Group’s global ID4D initiative working to promote inclusive and trusted identity systems by addressing the estimated gap of one billion people without any form of legal identity and improving design to advance development outcomes and growth of the digital economy 
  • Aadhaar, the world’s largest national digital identity programme that has enrolled more than 1.26 billion residents 
  • ID4Africa, a humanitarian organisation that accompanies African nations on their journey to develop robust and responsible identity ecosystems 
  • The European Union’s eID regulations and strategy driving development across its 27 nation states 

The Board will be chaired by Dr Joseph Atick, Executive Chairman of ID4Africa, who emphasises the increasing impact digital identity is having on modern society: “Today, COVID-19 has both highlighted and accelerated the role of digital identity in extending social safety nets and managing economies as populations and businesses alike adapt and permanently move interactions and commerce online. Digital advances in identity, particularly biometric technologies, have become essential to the functioning of a healthy society.”   

“By building the next generation of identity systems to be inclusive, trusted, and digitally enabled, countries can build safer and fairer societies where all people can more easily and securely access services face-to-face and online, and take advantage of new opportunities in the digital economy,” says Vyjayanti Desai, Practice Manager, Identification for Development (ID4D) at World Bank Group. “I look forward to being part of this important initiative to make cutting edge privacy- and security-by-design features for identity systems relevant and available to all countries.” 

The Turing project is committed to collating a multi-disciplined effort to enrich understanding of evolving threats and risks to identity systems, including the complex interplay of socio-economic and technical considerations within developing countries. It also builds on a significant body of existing research to bring forward promising advances in data science and privacy enhancing technologies of value in all economic settings. The ambition is to produce a definitive set of tested and accessible tools, best practice guidance, and design references based on six key criteria for assessing the impact on trust in national identity programmes:  security, privacy, ethics, resilience, robustness, and reliability.  

The foundation of this International Advisory Board is supported by the publication of a report from the project entitled Trustworthy Digital Infrastructure for Digital Identity Systems: The Global Imperative. This report acknowledges that digital transformations, including in how people are legally recognised are already redefining opportunity around the world. A new Interest Group: Trustworthy Digital Identity has also been created to facilitate engagement across the community of interest.  

Biographies: Inaugural Advisory Board members 

Dr Joseph Atick, Chairman & Co-founder ID4Africa; Founder & Chairman of Identity Counsel International (ICI)

With 30 years of domain expertise in the field of identity and biometrics, Dr Joseph Atick is recognised as a founding father of the digital identity community.  Formerly head of the Computational Neuroscience Library at Rockefeller University, Joseph’s research areas led to the discovery of key algorithms for pattern recognition that led to the foundation of the biometric industry and face recognition technology. He has since dedicated his career to bringing identity to the social and economic development agenda and currently chairs the ID4Africa Movement (, which he established in 2014 and now represents the interests of identity stakeholders in 48 African countries. He also co-founded the International Biometrics & Identity Association; served as Executive Chairman of Identity Council International, which provided strategic counsel to governments, international organizations and enterprises, and established a company that he led through several mergers to become a part of the global identity solutions provider IDEMIA.  

Dr Michiel Van Der Veen, Director of Innovation & Development, National Office for Identity Data, Netherlands 

Dr Michiel van der Veen is Director Innovation & Development at the National Office for Identity Data of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations in the Netherlands. He has been a leader within the field of biometrics, and the delivery of large-scale identification projects for governments since 2008. He began his career with Philips Electronics, where he held several technical and leadership positions, and went on to establish priv-ID BV, a spin-off company of Philips Electronics developing emerging privacy-by-design technologies for biometric verification. He led the new company through a successful merger with Norway-based GenKey AS, where he also served as Chief Executive Officer and became particularly active advancing identification and biometric solutions for governments in developing countries. Michiel is a member of the Technical Expert Group of the Identification for Development (ID4D) program at the World Bank.  
Vyjayanti Desai, Practice Manager, Identification for Development (ID4D) and G2Px at World Bank Group 

Vyjayanti Desai is the Practice Manager of World Bank’s Identification for Development (ID4D) and Digitizing Government to Person Payments (G2Px) initiative, two global, multi-sectoral initiatives. These initiatives support progress towards trusted and inclusive identification systems and digitization of G2P programs with broader goals of financial and social inclusion, women’s empowerment and greater individual agency.  These initiatives support clients with advice and financing in over 35 countries, advances thought leadership on the topics of digital identity and G2P and accelerates global public goods together with other partners. Vyjayanti joined the World Bank Group (WBG) in 2000 and has worked on a range of private and financial sector development programs across both the World Bank and IFC advisory within several regions -- Africa, East Asia and South Asia.  The programs she has led, working with client countries, has spanned topics of small and medium enterprise development (SME), competitiveness and innovation, digital development, investment climate policy and regulatory reforms, and access to finance. Within the WBG, she has led and shaped many multi-disciplinary and institution-wide programs, actively working to develop a unified agenda and designing integrated multi-sectoral solutions to these pressing development challenges. Prior to joining the World Bank Group, Vyjayanti worked at Deloitte Emerging Markets, where she provided consulting services to clients on private and financial sector development.  

Dr Pramod Varma, Chief Architect Aadhaar, India Stack, CTO EkStep Foundation

Dr Pramod Varma is the Chief Architect of Aadhaar, India's digital identity program that has enrolled more than 1.26 billion residents. Pramod advises several digital public infrastructure initiatives in India, including: National Payment Corporation (NPCI), Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN), National Health Authority (NHA), and Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) among others. He is also the architect of various population-scale solutions in India, including eSign, Digital Locker, and Unified Payment Interface (UPI), and works to drive tech for good initiatives as co-founder of the non-profit organisation behind open-source protocol specifications for hyperlocal commerce; and as CTO of EkStep, a platform providing learning opportunities to 200 million children in India. Pramod is passionate about technology, science, society, and teaching, driven by his enthusiasm for advancing Internet-scale distributed architectures and intelligent systems for public good.