Current paper-based systems we rely on are vulnerable and at risk every day. Toufic ‘Tey’ El-Rjula’s records were destroyed during the Gulf War making him like many others today an ‘invisible person’. The suffering and hardships as a result of losing his identity inspired Toufic ‘Tey’ El-Rjula to co-found Tykn. This startup, based in The Hague startup hub Apollo 14, offers a blockchain platform that can transform the current paper-based systems into a digital one.
With Tykn’s technology, people will digitally carry their identification with them on their smartphone or smartcard. Tey describes ‘With Tykn we are inverting the model of identification. Instead of government organisations like saving data of people, people will carry their own data with them’.
Global yellow book
Our technology will improve the identity management systems and we do this by making a global yellow book for governments and NGOs. This book has keys and magic pens from trusted organisations worldwide e.g. the municipality of The Hague, Red Cross, Oxfam. The organisations can sign a citizen’s claim by using the keys. For example, I would say my name is Tey and I am born Kuwait. If immigration services and Red Cross verify this, it is saved on my smartphone. When I go to another organisation for example Oxfam, I can show who I am and that it is verified by the immigration services and Red Cross.
To make sure that the signatures are original, authentic and untempered with we use blockchain technology. Oxfam can verify on the ledger who the key belongs to and make sure the data can be trusted. The biggest difference is that people carry their identity with them. This means the role of NGOs and local governments will no longer be to save data, their role will be to sign it and protect its keys’.
The space to innovate
After months of research, however Tey found that local governments will not touch sensitive matters like birth certification or be able to change their current infrastructure into a digital one soon. The biggest barrier is the law, which requires certain documents to be paper-based. To change this will take years and as a startup, you do not have this kind of time. ‘We need to find the space where we can innovate, what are upcoming ideas and what are new (legal) requirements’.
Tey gives us an exclusive scoop, an example of a pilot he is currently working on. ‘By 2020, the national Dutch government plans to introduce identity passports for pets to take on illegal animal trade. Whether local governments like it or not they have to comply and register every pet owner and give pets a digital identity. This is an opportunity for our startup. The number of Dutch people who own a pet is huge and all their data e.g. their address, credit card number and so on will be linked to their pet’s passport.
This data will be vulnerable as it will be handled by organisations as for these organisations data security is not a number one priority (e.g. pet clinics, vets). By hacking a vet clinics’ database you can get a list of people and identify public figures, politicians, police or tax officers. People will become vulnerable, because of their pets’.
Partner up become a global leader
Tykn’s ambition for 2019 is to have a solid partnership on paper with the municipality of The Hague. According to Tey ‘Many see The Hague as not just the city of peace and justice, but also the city of innovation and space for peace, justice, and humanitarian action. This is because there are a lot of international NGOs based here.
We are based in The Hague, ImpactCity, for a reason. Apollo 14 is the perfect place for us. Here, impact makers join forces for a better world. Also the Hague Humanity Hub, for example, is a great partner for us. Mercy Corps, Stanford University, Dutch Humanitarian Alliance, DHCI are all there and the hub continues to attract more global NGOs. We attend the weekly meetups and get to for example work with Mercy Corps. Working with those guys is really big, others pay thousands of euros for this access. We believe the municipality of The Hague can take the lead so others can learn and adopt our technology, they would not only lead on a local level but also globally’.
At ImpactCity we look forward to seeing how Tey’s story will progress and how Tykn will stay ahead of the game while innovating to make global impact.