(Team members from the left) Gustavo Zaera Holo, Nikolai Fasting and Maciej Kucharz from Syncano, Kasper Mikiewicz from Eyedea, Sean Garman, Heena Hasan and Maria Hallberg from Save the Children, Ethan Dawit from Municipality of Bærum and Adam Wardecki.

How do you identify yourself if you have fled from everything you own? Syncano has developed a digital solution called Digital Grab Bag.

In partnership with Save The Children and Bærum Kommune, Syncano has developed a digital ID for refugees "It works like a web of trust where refugees can have their story verified by others” says Nikolai Fasting founder and CEO of Syncano. Their solution recently won a competition to solve problems for refugees using technology, hosted by the UN.

Document your escape

Imagine that you have to flee your country in a chaotic situation. Before you leave, photograph your house to make your camera store geolocation data proving you were there. Upload important documents if you have them, or photo of anything else that may serve as a travel log of your escape. If you meet NGOs in the refugee camp across the border, they can verify that you were there. So can the people who know you. These are all scenarios refugees commonly face and documenting them could help verify their story. The result is a digital ID not dissimilar from what recipient countries already use to establish the identity of asylum seekers.

In the absence of a passport, piecing together specific information from a life goes a long way to prove an identity.

In the absence of a passport, piecing together specific information from a life goes a long way to prove an identity.NGOs with a high level of trust within the system, may log on to verify what they have seen for themselves, and thus play an important role in implementing the solution. Digital Grab Bag is based on the same technical principles as bitcoin called blockchain. Uploaded content is distributed widely, encrypted with a timestamp and stored in the cloud. This making it very difficult to tamper with and every bit as safe as the digital currency. And more importantly, it is anonymous until the refugee decides to disclose the whole record or part of it.

Those who need to know

Trying to solve the problem of identifying refugees, Syncano sought out the partnership and advice of those who work in the field. Both the municipality of Bærum and Save the Children participated. “It made me realize how easy it could be to solve this problem through technology” says Ethan Dawit on collaborating with Syncano. He served as an advisor from the municipal refugee office of Bærum having experienced first hand the challenges of refugees without proper identification. Maria Hallberg from Save the children also contributed and know the problem well. “Identity is very challenging for the humanitarian sector and we need new solutions that may contribute to identify refugees. Your ability to identify yourself is a prerequisite for being registered, have access to services and apply for asylum” says Maria. “I was very impressed by the speed of which Syncano transformed a concept into actual technology.” she goes on to say.

Animation: Digital Grab Bag in action.

Now Syncano is seeking out new partners that may want to take on the challenge of making grabbag.io a standard for documenting the identity of refugees. “We need someone to be the ‘startup’. Someone who can put their heart and soul into the idea, move it forward and own it. Making something like this work requires an all-in effort, and cannot be a sideline. We are seeking someone like this” explains Fasting

A digital currency and a secure payment network where transactions take place between users directly, without an intermediary. These transactions are verified by all nodes in the network and recorded in a public distributed ledger called a blockchain. Source: Wikipedia
The underlying technology for digital currencies such as Bitcoin. Consists of a distributed register that is used to maintain a continuously growing list of records, called blocks. All members of the network carry all blocks for all transactions ever made. In order to hack the blockchain, you would have to hack all computers in the network in the same manner at the same time, which is virtually impossible. This makes the blockchain inherently secure. Read more: Wikipedia