Like many other stateless people around the globe, the Rohingya face an existential crisis: lack of an officially recognized identity. Facing massive threats to their lives, over 700,000 Rohingya have fled across the border from Myanmar to Bangladesh since last summer, but scores of Rohingya have been fleeing Myanmar for years, with many finding refuge in countries around the world including Pakistan, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia. It is estimated that the Rohingya diaspora consists of 3-4 million individuals – nearly all of them without official identification. This growing and seemingly endless situation is what prompted Muhammad Noor, a Rohingya community leader whose parents fled from Myanmar in the early 1970s, and his team to find an innovative solution to the identity crisis using blockchain technology.
With the ultimate goal of uplifting and empowering the stateless, the Rohingya Project aims to create a secure and transparent blockchain ecosystem for the establishment of digital identities and creation of a Rohingya virtual economy.
“If we can solve the identity crisis, and use that to give the Rohingya people access to financial services such as receiving and sending money and having a space to store wealth, that can enable them to solve other problems they face. We want to provide them a tool that will help them be more self-sustainable wherever they are,” says Noor.
And while there are certain challenges, such as teaching the Rohingya people the concepts behind digital identification and blockchain technology, possible breaches of security are not one of them. According to Noor, once you are on the blockchain ecosystem, it is completely encrypted and most importantly, there is no centralized data, making it virtually tamper-proof. Each identity will belong to each individual; it will not be saved in any larger database.
Says Noor, “The Burmese want to rid us of our identity, but through this project, we are trying to prove that we do exist.”