Picture: 123RF/SAM74100
Picture: 123RF/SAM74100

In this edition of Business Day Spotlight, we learn about how a local start-up wants to push forward the idea of digital identity spurred on by the current coronavirus crisis.

Host Mudiwa Gavaza is joined by Co-Pierre Georg, professor and head of the Masters programme for financial technology at the University of Cape Town, and co-founder of Covi-ID.

Covi-ID is an SA-based start-up that offers a privacy-focused, free and open-source Covid-19 immunity pass for people using blockchain technology.

Join the discussion

The discussion starts of with Georg explaining how Covi-ID works and how it was developed.

The platform allows users to receive their health status from medical professionals using a method called self-sovereign identity (SSI). The core principle of SSI is that users should be in control of their personal information.

Users can create a Covi-ID account and submit their Covid-19 status, which is then be sent to a medical professional who tests them for confirmation. Once done, the user is said to possess reliable proof of their health status in the form of a QR code. This can be stored on a smartphone using Covi-ID’s app.

The Covi-ID verifier app can be used in public spaces to allow people who have recovered from the coronavirus, or in the future have been vaccinated, to move freely while maintaining their safety.

Georg says individuals would be able to undergo accurate health screening for access control of public spaces such as their place of work, shopping malls or public transport.

While returning to “business as usual” seems far away, Covi-ID is being built with the goal of providing a free, open-source solution that helps SA move into a new normal, he says.

Business Day Spotlight host Mudiwa Gavaza. Picture: DOROTHY KGOSI
Business Day Spotlight host Mudiwa Gavaza. Picture: DOROTHY KGOSI

In a public health crisis, privacy is put to the test. User data about who has obtained immunity, who has contracted the virus, and who was in contact with the person, is extremely valuable. Collecting and analysing this data is crucial for effective policymaking, which aims to contain the virus and jumpstart our economy, Georg says.

“We started Covi-ID to show that these important public health objectives can be achieved without sacrificing privacy.”

Though there are many privacy concerns, he is confident that their system is built in a such a way as to give freedom as opposed to repression as seen in some parts of the world.

So far, Georg says Covi-ID has raised about R2m so far in funding so that they can launch their service to the public. Over time, they will be looking to raise more funding to scale the platform.

The goal is to have all South Africans using the platform as it could form the basis of a national digital identity footprint, beyond the Covid-19 crisis, says Georg. Ultimately, this is something that the team thinks could be used by all African countries to digitise the traditional identity document.

The discussion also touches on the business model for the platform, how the idea came about, how similar techniques have been used in other parts of the world, what makes Covi-ID different, the team behind it and vision for the future.

Test the first phase of the platform here.

For more episodes, click here.

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Business Day Spotlight is a MultimediaLIVE production.

Picture: 123RF/SAM74100
Picture: 123RF/SAM74100