On Tuesday, OWI, along with partners Orange Silicon Valley, Juvo, CEGA, and GSMA, hosted the first of a series of Forums dedicated to digital identity. The event was attended by over 90 senior executives from Silicon Valley’s startup community focused on digital identity in global development.

After the opening remarks from OWI’s CEO Travis Jarae, CEGA’s Josh Blumenstock gave a mesmerizing presentation on how machine learning coupled with remote sensing and mobile data is being used by academic researchers to predict poverty.


As Josh points out, these methods produce statistics as accurate as a 5-year old national survey but 100x cheaper and 10x faster, enabling better targeting of aid and improved crisis response. The same methods used to predict wealth can predict credit scores, and much more.

While much of the afternoon discussion was focused broadly on how data can serve and create opportunities for the next billion, four key themes emerged.

  1. Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) either don’t quite know/appreciate the value of their data or they are unable, technically or otherwise, to capture the value of their data. All panelists agreed that 2019 will be the year MNOs figure out their data strategies.
  2. GDPR is contagious, and it’s easier to bake privacy tools into your product early than adapt it after your product is launched. As Brad Pennington pointed out, it is much easier to build something the right way than it is to clean up mounds of technical debt.
  3. Fraud isn’t just for developed markets. Our favorite quote of the night went to Daniel Jung, Cofounder of Branch, “you can tell you’ve made it when your product gets hit by its first major fraud wave.” For financial inclusion development in 2019, that’s only going to get worse as capital investment and start-up activity continues to accelerate.
  4. Companies have to remain nimble and select markets wisely to navigate shifting regulatory regimes (i.e., data localization). All of the panelists had their own approaches to this, but all agreed that nothing beats having a local team on the ground – folks who know the language, culture, and can provide the best customer experiences to those being served there.

A big thank you to all who participated (by order of appearance):
Travis Jarae (OWI), Moses Choi (Orange Silicon Valley), Josh Blumenstock(CEGA), Schan Duff (Juvo), Kathleen Peters (Experian), Stacy Stubblefield(TeleSign), Bill Spruill (Global Data Consortium), Kaelyn Lowmaster (OWI), Steve Polsky (Juvo), Brad Pennington (PayJoy), Daniel Jung (Branch) And a thank you to all of our partners:
Orange Silicon ValleyJuvoCEGAGSMA

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