This Dutch startup is working with the Turkish Government to help increase refugee employability, financial independence; here’s how

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What would you do if you have no proof of existence? Because without that, you’ll have no access to services such as healthcare, education, banking, or an option to get a job. Tey Al-Rjula has personally experienced what it is like to be ‘invisible’. “My birth certificate got lost during the Gulf war in Kuwait. I lived as an ‘invisible’ man in the Netherlands when my work contract expired and I ended up in an asylum centre. There I met many Syrian refugees who had also lost their identity and faced the same problems as I did. As without an identity you do not have access to many basic needs and therefore not to your human rights.” 

This personal experience gave Al-Rjula the inspiration to found Tykn, together with social entrepreneurs Khalid Maliki and Jimmy J.P. Snoek. However, Al-Rjula left the company in December 2019 and has not been involved since, with Snoek taking over as the CEO of Tykn.

No proof of existence!

According to Tykn, last year (in 2020), about 1.2 billion people globally did not have valid identity proof. In fact, identity proofs remain problematic to this day. When on paper, they could be easily lost or destroyed, and when in digital, they can be breached, hacked, or leaked online. For instance, sold on the black market and used for fraud. Vulnerable people like refugees are just the first to suffer the problems of proving valid identity.

A third of the refugees in Europe are children, and while they are lucky to get documented, hundreds of thousands newborns in Syrian Refugee camps are unable to get their birth certificates, due to economic, geographical, and complex administrative barriers and difficult registration processes 

This and many more experiences of hardship that refugees suffer due to weak and outdated identity systems give the founders of Tykn, the ongoing inspiration and motivation to lead to a future where identities are private and secure.

Work Permit documentation for refugees

In a recent development, the Turkish Government is piloting Tykn’s digital identity platform – Ana, to optimise and speed up the process of issuing Work Permit documentation for refugees.

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The platform – Ana, leverages the innovative Self-Sovereign Identity technology that makes digital documents become tamper-proof and verifiable anywhere, at any time. Turkey wants to increase the opportunities for the 3 million refugees in the country to become financially independent.

“This application will make people’s lives easier. There is no need to lose time going to too many institutes. Instead of going there you’ll save the time and do it where you are,” said Abida (alias), a Syrian refugee who tested Ana.

Who is contributing to this project?

The project was initiated by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) within the first Sustainable Development Goals Impact Accelerator (SDGia). 

The Dutch digital identity startup Tykn is developing the Ana platform. The INGEV Foundation is the implementing partner on the ground. TÜBİTAK, World Food Programme (WFP), Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, and Istanbul Chamber of Industry are also collaborating in this pilot.

Tykn is excited about the partnership, Khalid Maliki, Tykn’s co-founder says, “With the use of Self-Sovereign Identity, the processes of issuing and verification of documentation and identity credentials don’t need to be slow and costly anymore. Developing this technology with such esteemed partners and positively impacting the lives of so many people is extremely rewarding for us.”

For the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Tykn was one of SDGia’s best teams with their dedication to creating an impact in the lives of refugees. Representing the first batch of SDGia alumni, Tykn joined us in a spotlight event at the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva. They were also one of the first graduates to finish their implementation. We believe they will succeed in scaling up their business and replicate their solutions in different contexts.”

UNDP

United Nations Development Programme or UNDP works in 170 countries and territories to eliminate poverty while protecting the planet. It helps countries develop strong policies, skills, partnerships, and institutions so they can sustain their progress.

The UNDP Turkey believes the “Work permit is key to access to the social protection and decent working conditions for refugees in Turkey. Through the SDG Impact Accelerator Program (SDGia) Tykn has created an application that aims at reducing paperwork and manual verification processes conducted during work permit applications. Tykn’s solution, the Ana Digital Wallet, could facilitate and accelerate work permit and approval processes for refugee entrepreneurs by keeping all verified documents in one place. The Digital Wallet is certainly a tool to benefit when minimising the manual verification processes of documents issued by multiple stakeholders.”

About Tykn

Founded in 2017 by Tey Al-Rjula, Khalid Maliki, and Jimmy Snoek, Tykn is a digital identity management platform offering an innovative identity registration system for both private and public companies. 

They can efficiently share, verify, and request digital identity credentials via the platform. Users will get a digital identity wallet and an app that work on all mobile devices and let them digitally access services in a secure manner. Tykn operates with the aim to create a future of opportunities for all.

In May 2019, the company had raised €1.2M in funding from Dutch IT entrepreneur Johan Mastenbroek with an aim to scaling up the team and product development. Besides, Tey el-Rjula was also awarded a funding amount of $50,000 during the global finals of Chivas Venture, an international competition for social entrepreneurs. The event was held at the TNW Conference 2018 in the first week of May 2019.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been edited. Tey Al-Rjula was incorrectly mentioned as the current CEO of Tynk. However, Al-Rjula left the company in December 2019 and has not been involved since, with Jimmy JP Snoek taking over as the CEO of Tykn

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