A retrospective on Kiva Protocol

This site is a retrospective of the Kiva Protocol initiative. It's meant to be an information resource for our partners and stakeholders, capturing the problem we set out to address, our accomplishments and failures, and key lessons learned. For details on the sunsetting of Kiva Protocol, see our blog.

The financial sector runs on information.

To access financial services, we share information about our identity, our credit score, our income, our employment. When sharing this information is time-consuming, expensive, untrustworthy, or simply impossible, the cost of providing financial services increases dramatically.

When this is the case, it disproportionately impacts the under-served, as the costs of providing them services can outstrip the potential revenue. This is a classic market failure, where the commercial incentives in the market are insufficient to overcome the systemic barriers to information exchange.

We believe that solving for this constraint at an ecosystem level can have transformational market impact. When consumers and financial institutions can easily and securely share information, it opens up a tremendous range of possibilities for new and innovative financial services that weren’t possible otherwise.

How could Kiva Protocol help?

In 2018, Kiva launched a new initiative to address this market failure. Kiva Protocol was built as an open-source platform for sharing identification and other information in the financial sector, developed with national governments and implemented as a public-private partnership. It provided “digital public infrastructure” that enabled financial institutions to securely connect and share verifiable information with their clients, government agencies, and other organizations.

Having this type of infrastructure in place provides a dramatic reduction in operational costs, fraud risk, and regulatory compliance overhead, enabling financial institutions to profitably serve a much wider range of the population, and thereby improving access to services for the un- and underbanked.

Kiva Protocol used a decentralized architecture, where every individual receives a digital wallet that holds her identification credential and other relevant information. When an individual wants to prove her identity with a participating financial institution, she can simply use her fingerprint to authenticate and share any information held in her wallet. And in fact, this system for verifiable information exchange can work across sectors, data types, and borders, enabling individuals to securely share information in their wallet with any participating institution.

Our Approach

Since its founding, Kiva has used advanced technologies and innovative operating models to advance its mission. With Protocol, Kiva stepped into a relatively unique role as a nonprofit developing and implementing digital public infrastructure with our partners.

This raised eyebrows. To some, we appeared to be a traditional technology vendor selling a software system. But we built Kiva Protocol as a completely open-source stack, with no IP or licensing restrictions and therefore no vendor lock-in. And while we offered to provide our partners with operational support running the system, our goal was to build capacity such that our partners could run the system without us. Our long-term vision was for any entity to be able to use the open-source tools we had built, configure them according to their needs, and run their system in a way that made sense for their needs.

To accomplish this, our team became significant contributors in the open-source communities developing the code bases and open standards on which Protocol was built, including Hyperledger Indy, Aries, and Ursa; the Trust Over IP Foundation; the W3C, and more. During the lifespan of Kiva Protocol, the open-source community we participated in grew from about 40 contributors to 1000s. The tech from that community is being used for government digital identity work in Canada, Germany, Finland and elsewhere.


Kiva Protocol would not have been possible without the support of our donors, international development actors, open-source communities, and project stakeholders.

To Rippleworks, Dell Foundation, Skoll Foundation, Cisco Foundation, Amazon Web Services, and the World Bank, we remain extremely grateful for your belief in an ambitious vision of open-source infrastructure that can improve people's lives through access to financial services. Your generous support enabled us to demonstrate the value that this type of approach can bring.

To the development organizations we engaged with, including CABEI, UNDP, UNHCR, UNCDF, World Bank ID4D and IFC, ID2020, and the Digital Public Goods Alliance, we appreciate your support.

To the open-source communities we were active in, including Hyperledger Indy, Aries and Ursa; Trust Over IP Foundation; and AnonCreds, thank you for all the work you've done and continue to do to push toward open, interoperable systems that have real value in the world.

And finally, to our project stakeholders, including in Honduras the Comision Nacional de Bancos y Seguros, Banco Central de Honduras, and Registro Nacional de Personas; and in Sierra Leone the Bank of Sierra Leone and the National Civil Registry Authority, we cannot express enough our gratitude for your engagement and support.