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UNHCR and LIGHTest are collaborating on an innovative process of identification, eligibility and selection of refugees who want to pursue higher education.


We asked Rachelle Sellung, Senior Scientist working on the EU funded LIGHTest project, to explain the role of trust infrastructures and LIGHTest’s collaboration with UNHCR

UNHCR and the LIGHTest consortium are working together. Can you explain to us what this co-operation is about?

RS: LIGHTest and UNHCR have joined forces to work on offering digital solutions to problem faced by refugees. We have identified one use case for the LIGHTest cross-domain trust infrastructure that could be applied in the UNHCR DAFI programme for education, a scholarship program for refugees who want to go to university. The trust infrastructure will help with the verification and translation of important documents for the application process in an Academic or University setting. The trust infrastructure will help with the verification and acceptance of important documents for the application process in an Academic or University setting. We will soon start working on defining the prototype of a UNHCR trust scheme and by the end of August 2019, we would like to have a LIGHTest – UNHCR demonstrator and a set-up a pilot project.

What is a cross-domain trust infrastructure and why is it important  to verify and evaluate electronic transactions?

RS: Is someone who he claims to? Is a transaction legitimate? Can I trust a document? Those are the questions that you must ask yourself when you want to verify and evaluate an electronic transaction. But often the answers are difficult to find because of restrictions or legislative requirements, national laws etc. This creates incompatible islands that make global cooperation difficult. The LIGHTest cross-domain infrastructure provides the technical means to build bridges between these islands, fostering the use of digital trust in a global setting and making international and inter-sectorial cooperation more secure and reliable. As our transactions and agreements between two entities are increasingly shared through a digital platform, it is crucial that these electronic transactions can be verified and translated on a trusted infrastructure.

Why would you think is it important for refugees that such a trust infrastructure exists?

RS: The LIGHTest trust infrastructure could assist in the digitalization of documents to help prevent fraud, loss of documents and improve accessibility and transfer of documents between stakeholders such as UNHCR, universities and refugees. This technology would empower refugees by breaking down barriers to access their identity documents and education certificates, which will ease their application to a scholarship for a tertiary education.

How can we be sure that the trust infrastructure you are talking about can’t be manipulated?

RS: The infrastructure is based on modern security technologies, such as public key certificates. It uses the global Domain Name Service (DNS) as a tool for verifying the correctness of information, which, by way of the DNS Security Extensions (DNSSEC), provides a strong foundation for security.

Why does it take a consortium, like LIGHTest, to build such a trust infrastructure? If money were to be made, wouldn’t the private sector have invented it a long time ago?

RS:The private sector has started to recognize the potential of trust infrastructure but this is a global effort that needs to be made by several organizations to truly be an asset to the whole sector. Besides, in the digital world, the private sector often benefits from incompatible islands that locks customers into their solution, hence creating semi-monopolies for private companies. Those monopolies make it difficult for potential competitors to break into the market, stifling innovation and progress. LIGHTest is a common good, an open initiative that aims to provide a platform allowing different service providers and operators to interoperate across boundaries.


On LIGHTest:

LIGHTest stands for Lightweight Infrastructure for Global Heterogeneous Trust management in support of an open Ecosystem of Stakeholders and Trust schemes.

The objective of LIGHTest is to create a global cross-domain trust infrastructure that renders it transparent and easy for verifiers to evaluate electronic transactions. By querying different trust authorities world-wide and combining trust aspects related to identity, business, reputation etc. it will become possible to conduct domain-specific trust decisions. This is achieved by reusing existing governance, organization, infrastructure, standards, software, community, and know-how of the existing Domain Name System, combined with new innovative building blocks. This approach allows an efficient global rollout of a solution that assists decision makers in their trust decisions. By integrating mobile identities into the scheme, LIGHTest also enables domain-specific assessments on Levels of Assurance for these identities.