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From Russia with Love – How Do Russians Acquire an Identity? – Part 1

The 1963 James Bond action thriller, “From Russia with Love”, starring Sean Connery, see Bond willingly falls into an assassination ploy involving a naive Russian beauty in order to retrieve a Soviet encryption device that was stolen by SPECTRE.  The Lektor decoder, at it was called, was a highLektor decoderly sought after decoding machine, used by Soviet Intelligence to de-compile coded and highly sensitive documents.

Decrypting a Russian name can be highly complex and sought after as well, especially in the electronic identity space.  Let’s examine exactly how and what is in a Russian name – one of the verifiable attributes of a digital identity.

A Russian begins to acquire an identity before he or she is ever born. The first element of a Russian’s identity is his or her name – two parts of the name are determined before the Russian is even born. First there is the family name (фамилия) which is taken from the father. At marriage, Russian women take their husband’s last name. The last name, if it is a Russian last name, is changed to show gender. Russian male last names ending in -skij (ский) will change to -skaya (ская) for a woman. Russian last names ending in a consonant for men will add an a or ya (а/я) to show the female version of the name. If a family name is not Russian (Jewish, Estonian, German, Latvian, etc.) then the last name will not changeThe second part of a Russian’s name determined before birth is the middle name or patronymic (отчество) this name is also derived from the father and translates as son of or daughter of. All Russians who share the same father will have the same patronymic, again changed to show gender. This name is derived from the father’s name with the addition of a suffix -ovich/evich (ович/евич) for sons and –ovna/evna (овна/евна) for girls.

The first name that a Russian gets is chosen entirely by the parents or family and can show particular traditions within a family. For example, if a family is very religious, they may choose to name their child after the saint for that day on the Russian Orthodox calendar. Russians may also name the child after significant family members, writers, people of renown in Russian culture, or after favorite russian nesting doll musicians. Some Russians who are more western choose to give their children more European names like Rutger or Margarita. From the first name, many diminutive or nicknames can be formed. These are usually only used within family or friend groups. Male and female names that have the same roots will form the same diminutives. For example, a man named Evgenij (Евгений) and a woman named Evgeniya (Евгения) will both have the same basic diminutive of Zhenya (Женя). This name can then be further diminutivized by adding further suffixes and creating names like Zhenochka (Женочка).

The Global Data Consortium’s Worldview platform has one of the most unique and privileged access solutions to identify Russian individuals.  As with the Lektor decoder, it can be one of the most sought after solutions to help fight fraud in the international digital world.

Be on the lookout for Part 2 of our series – How Do Russians Acquire an Identity?

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Singapore: “Chili Crab” or ID?

The island nation of Singapore is known for many things.  Specifically, it is a “melting pot” of sorts including a mixture of cultures, languages, alphabets and nationalities. The city state is known for its cuisine, especially for its famous dish, the “chili crab.” Just like the food, the people are a fusion of all who come to reside there – Chinese, Indonesian, Malaysian and the list goes on.  One thing is for certain, the needs for identity verification are as dynamic and diverse as the cultures.  For those of you looking for the best places for “chili crab” in Singapore you can look here.

Chili Crab

Chili Crab

First, let’s take the Singapore national ID card.  The ID card represents the melding of peoples in the way it represents individual’s identity attributes.  Document validation, to verify identity, will tell you accurately that the format is correct (but not necessarily verified).  When a National ID/Passport scan or image is sent to the Document Validation provider they perform an automated analysis checking the validity of the information on the document ensuring the information makes sense and goes together, and that none of the images or data is forged. A Document Validation service provider may check the following data points:

  • Full Name
  • Nationality
  • Date of Birth
  • Photo
  • Gender
  • Document Expiration Date
  • Passport MRZ (Machine Readable Zone – two 44 character rows that convey the data on the Passport)
  • In the case of Singapore, the national ID includes elements very like a passport given the nature of the multicultural country.
  • Full Name – English then Native
  • Race – Example Chinese
  • Birth Date
  • Country of Birth – China, Singapore

Document Validation providers may also check characteristics of a document to ensure it has not been forged or altered.   This can include checking the background print, micro text, whether the document photo has been replaced, whether the fonts used are consistent and correct, and other authenticity checks.  These checks generally require manual review and often supplement automatic checks of the document data points.

However, verifying the data associated with a National ID against trusted sources is a different matter. For example, let’s look at one of the elements on the National Registration Identity Card – race. Surprisingly, Singapore allows TWO RACES in accordance with their race diversity disclosures.  

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Front

This is called “double-barreling” which applies to all babies born as of January 1st, 2011.  The ID card represents the melding of peoples in the way it represents race.

Here’s how it works.  Your race must be a logical combo of your mom’s and dad’s races. e.g. Malay-German or Malay-Caucasian. The race in front is regarded as the dominant one e.g. in the above example, “Malay” is the dominant race.  All siblings from the same parents must have the same race, if the kid gets married to someone else of mixed parentage, only the dominant race counts for both.

Next, let’s examine the card and how it represents the melding of peoples in the way it represents names. If you are of origin in another country – perhaps China, but have a Latin English name you will see both the English name and the Chinese name listed on the card in the order – English to Chinese. In other cases, the name may only be the traditional Chinese name, and it can vary and exposes a challenge of using only document verification.  

Name and race are two examples of the challenges of validating identity using document checks without electronic identity verification.

 The best solution is to combine document validation/authentication (Doc check) and electronic identity verification (eIDV).  This both checks the characteristics of the document and the accuracy of the data on it.  Combining Doc check with eIDV check for countries like Singapore will allow you to accurately and correctly verify one’s identity.  

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Portugal: A Population of Global Explorers and Diasporas

Vasco da Gama Bridge

Vasco da Gama Bridge

I am sitting in a nondescript office in the harbor sector of the city of Lisbon looking out at the beautiful Vasco da Gama Bridge. This bridge is the longest bridge in Europe spanning over 12 kilometers across the Tagus River in Lisbon. While this bridge is a modern wonder, the discussion taking p
lace inside the office is also a bit of a wonder in the world of global identity verification.

I am reviewing the results of a test file with our Portuguese Data expert. We had originally processed his file and achieved somewhat lower results than desired. The timing of the file processing and my trip to Portugal allowed for me to sit down directly with him and a colleague to review the results and better understand why the results were so low.

One of the first things we discovered about the data is that a percentage of the data was made up of foreign names meaning non-Portuguese in origin. As a result, these people were likely not citizens of the country but might still be residents. Portugal is unique in Europe because it has a large and growing population of ex-pats who retire there from the United Kingdom and France. The way our expert described it is that Portugal was a country where “many people are passing through”. Some stay for a little time and some stay forever. Given the temperatures, the beauty of its beaches and the great cost of living I completely understand this.

So while we could not accurately validate those people with our Portuguese Identity Verification we were able to architect within our system to run those people who did not validate in Portugal through our UK and then French Identity Verification providers all within the same system. This “waterfall” approach allowed for us to gain some immediate lift in the results and better validate the ex-pats that had settled in the region.

The next data validation challenge that was unique to Portugal (and likely unique to Brazil) was what I dubbed “The Maria Effect”. A large number of the women in Portugal are named Maria. This is a statement made by a guy who has spent more than 20 years working with consumer data in Portugal so I am going to choose to believe this statement of fact. Many of the Marias have secondary first or middle names which create differentiators (example: Maria-Theresa). Additionally the last name of her family and/or the last name of her husband might be used when completing some types of documentation thus Maria becomes possibly Maria Theresa de Salvo Carlos de Herrera. This a complete legitimate full name. At 32 characters this name likely would not even fit into most online data entry fields but that is the smaller of the concerns. Maria may also express her name as any combination of the above depending on how she choosing to distinctly represent herself. So she might be Theresa de Salvo or Theresa de Herrera or Theresa Carlos de Herrera. In all of these examples Maria may be substituted for Theresa creating a database of Marias that may or may not link back to a known identity in Portuguese data systems. This is where customized and localized fuzzy matching and rules logic are needed to ensure the best possible match result when attempting a identity verification for this country.

The next example of local data uniqueness is the “da Effect”. Many last names in Portugal have a preposition of da or de associated with them. Names can thus be represented in systems as Vasco da Gama or Vasco Gama. In both cases they are the same person. Many identity verification systems may choose to work with a hard 1:1 match and thus this would not generate a match on this particular name. Other systems may elect to drop the da/de as extraneous characters and not recognize them as part of the last name thus corrupting the name and likely generating a poor response.

After reviewing all of these examples we were able to ensure that we tuned our inputs to properly parse data going into our platform for Portuguese nuances. This allowed for us to create a better result and improve the overall match rates. This in turn helps satisfy our customer’s needs which at the end of the day was the goal of the conversation.

The above is a great view on how hyper-local knowledge and skills will produce quantifiably better results for global eKYC and identity resolution efforts. Whether it is mobile customer onboarding at BBVA or HSBC; or fraud risk analysis at Kreditech of fulfillment of European 4th Money Laundering Initiative compliance regulations between customer transactions. At GDC we enjoy learning these nuances from our local partners and much like the vision of da Gama we seek to spread this knowledge throughout the world.

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An Update on What We’re Doing at GDC (Hint: lots of global electronic identity verification)

Dear Friends,

You will notice some recent changes to the GDC website, and more are on the way. Let me explain what’s going on.

Two years ago we saw an opportunity to extend the Global Data Consortium model to electronic identity verification. This is where companies use independent reference data to instantly verify the identities of their customers. Think of opening an online bank account. Your bank is required to verify that you are who you say are before you can start moving money around. They want to do this as quickly as possible as you go through the registration process, otherwise you might lose interest and move on. Yes, we live in an instant gratification world!

We had a hypothesis that GDC could take the model we proved with global address hygiene- negotiating over 50 partnerships worldwide and building the technology to access all this distributed data in real-time – and apply it to identity information. And in true agile startup fashion, we started a customer discovery process to validate our assumptions. In talking with dozens of people across a range of industries, this is what we heard:

1. It’s not just banks! FinTech, eCommerce marketplaces, the sharing economy, social networks (I could go on) all want faster ways to verify identities as they move into new country markets.

2. All these companies are generally unhappy with the options available for global electronic identity verification today. This leaves them using document authentication services, which are too slow, create friction with customers, and cost too much.

3. They want a solution that gives them one point of access to as many countries as possible. (Many had tried building a similar technology in-house but failed. It was too hard!)

The feedback was enough for GDC to build a simple solution and put it quickly into beta mode. With just seven countries to offer, we found several early-adopters and two key strategic partners. They each used the product hard and gave us tons of critical feedback. We iterated, working out the kinks and proving out the technology and the economics one step at a time.

GDC is now over a year past that beta launch, and it’s time to show the world what we have to offer. I couldn’t be more excited.

We have already expanded the platform from seven to 19 countries, integrating services from over 45 data partners along the way. And we are only accelerating from here, gearing up to pass 50 countries (135 data partner integrations) by the end of next year. We are serious about becoming the one point for the market to access global electronic identity verification services.

So checkout our revised website. In the coming weeks we are adding more content to describe our services in each country, and we will be adding new countries.

www.globaldataconsortium.com

If you need help with global electronic identity verification, reach out to me and let’s talk about what GDC can do for you.

Also, if you are a data provider in a country we don’t yet offer, we would love to learn more about your services and consider adding you to the GDC platform as a Consortium partner.

Best,

Bill

bill@globaldataconsortium.com

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Spotlight on Brazil and Electronic Identity Verification

Next month the eyes of the world will once again be on Brazil, this time for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Despite all its recent turmoil  – the trifecta of political, economic and health issues – I’m optimistic that Brazil will put on a fun and safe show for us all. More importantly, I’m optimistic about the country’s overall prospects.

The turmoil has kept many companies away from Brazil. But over the long run, businesses with ambitions in Latin American will have no choice but invest there. It is, after all, the world’s sixth largest country by population and seventh largest economy by GDP. Ignore it during this short-term instability, and you might lose your chance to participate in the long run.

The big eCommerce marketplaces recognize this. The financial press prints story after story of Alibaba, Rakuten, Amazon, Mercado Libre and others investing heavily in Brazil. Why do this in the face of the country’s current instability? Because competition among them is brutal. If any of them cedes market share today, competitors will be all too happy to take over relationships with their sellers and buyers.

GDC got the chance to see this competition firsthand earlier this year. We launched a Brazil electronic identity verification service to help eCommerce marketplaces onboard sellers quickly.

Verifying the identities of merchants before they can begin selling goods on marketplaces has become common practice in the industry. Without it, bad actors are quick to infiltrate a marketplace with counterfeit goods and other forms of fraud. Using identity verification – asking the seller to provide information proving he is who he says he is – stops fraudsters from registering under false pretenses. They never get access to buyers, so fraud goes down and customer satisfaction goes up.

One of the big eCommerce marketplaces recently started using the Brazil electronic identity verification service. Previously, they had a clunky seller onboarding process. It leaned heavily on a manual workflow, used multiple data reference sources, and required new merchants to provide a lot of personal information. For example, applicants had to scan and submit photo ID’s to a document verification service as part of the process. The whole thing was time-consuming, inconvenient for sellers, and expensive for the client to maintain. Worst yet, they were losing sellers. The friction of onboarding had legitimate merchants abandoning their registrations before they could be approved.

GDC was glad to help. Our Brazil electronic identity verification service consolidated their entire process into a single registration form. When a seller submitted his name, address and national tax ID, a single API call to our platform queried multiple sources of credit, government, commercial and consumer identity reference data from our in-country Brazilian partners. The various sources cover over 95 percent of Brazil’s addressable adult population, and we were able to help our client match and approve nearly 75 percent of all applications within seconds.

We streamlined their process, limited the need for manual intervention in the workflow, and reduced their dependence on document verification and multiple data services. Most importantly, we got rid of the friction that had so many sellers abandon the registration process.

This is what GDC does both in Brazil and in the many other countries integrated into our global electronic identity verification platform. We give you one point of access to instantly verify the identities of customers, partners or counterparties no matter their country of origin. We help you bring in the good customers quickly while weeding out the bad ones.

If your business is expanding into Brazil, and you need help with verifying the identities of your customers, let’s talk. In the meantime, enjoy the Olympic show Brazil has prepared for the world.

Thanks for reading!

Best,

Paul

Paul Dryden
Global Data Consortium
paul@globaldataconsortium.com

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Our Report Card

Today is a memorable day for GDC. 18 months ago our first customer went live with our Worldview product, relying on GDC and Worldview to provide Address Verification. This client took a chance –to meet their needs for the best verification rates possible, they had to embrace a new model.

When we first speak with clients we explain our model – we find, qualify and integrate local companies that have the best address processing technology in their country. We harmonize our partner’s technologies and serve up all of that global value with a single OnDemand API. We understand that this model differs from other companies who build a single product, from a single data source, delivered the same way year-after-year.

Our clients embrace Worldview for innovative use cases. Companies validating address information as a key component of Identity Verification. eCommerce companies supporting cross-border commerce. Global organizations verifying and locating millions of points of interest. Delivery companies testing addresses to de-risk their logistics processes.

Now that we have been live for 18 months we can test the assumptions we made at the beginning. We had certain beliefs at the onset, how did we do? Let’s look at 4 of our initial suppositions.

Local Partners = Local Insight

We believed at the beginning that local partners would understand their country best and three themes have emerged. Within their country our partners handle regional variation, bad data patterns, and multilingual challenges better than anyone else.

Local Partners = Access to Unique Local Data

We thought that our partners would have insight on accessing, integrating and utilizing additional local data into their solution. GDC partners understand how to blend unique data into their solution, and they have the time and focus to do this work. Over half of our partners are using some form of data that is not being used by a global player.

Local Partners = Battle Tested Technology

Great address technology only gets great because it gets utilized; no one starts with an A+ product. We surmised our partners’ technology would be battle tested. For example, one partner’s offering is used by their country’s national post, and is accessed over a million times per week; the national post validates the goodness of their technology. This is representative of all of our partners – their technology is great because it gets used in-country, by clients that demand the best results.

Local Partners = Awesome Responsiveness

We knew our partners would be responsive in many ways. Our partners react quickly to new use cases and new address forms. Last month one of our customers had an issue with how a certain address suffix type was being handled, a pattern that would never be used in-country. Our partner enhanced their behavior and a correction was available the following day. Our partners are creating the next required services. A great example is our India partner that launched an advanced service. Our partners must continuously innovate; they don’t have the luxury of only revisiting their technology once a year, or when enough complaints for their country have piled up.

Where Are We Now?

After 18 months we have proven our beliefs at the beginning of this journey. We have worked with partners and clients that are willing to challenge conventions for how global address processing gets done. We continue to add countries to Worldview, and continue to tune Worldview to handle innovative eCommerce, Identity Verification, global point of interest, and delivery logistics use cases.

So that’s where we are 18 months since going live. Let’s see what the next 18 months brings. As always, we enjoy speaking with clients about how we can help you solve your business problems. Give us a shout and let’s see how we can expand your Worldview.

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New Advanced Address Verification Services in India

At GDC we are continuously searching the globe for new partners, new countries and new services for our customers; we enjoy telling the stories about our discovery and availability of these services!  We also work with our Partner Community to add additional capabilities to existing Worldview countries, and we are excited to announce the availability of Advanced Address Verification for India.

Our global expertise tells us that India is the most challenging country to provide great Address Verification due to the size of the country, the complexity of address information, and the regional variations of address information.  We hear from our customers and read recent studies that project tremendous opportunity in India for companies that are using the best available Address Verification solutions for eCommerce, Finance, and Logistics business problems.

Working with our premier Indian Partner, our Advanced Address Verification for India provides you with the most reliable solution for interpreting Indian Addresses.  Do you know that across India there are over 400 different building descriptors?  We do.  Our highly configurable solution reliably parses, interprets and verifies all of the components of an Indian address – road differentiation, sublocalities, localities, pin codes, buildings, building numbers, wings, floors, and more.  We can turn on additional custom capabilities to meet the needs of your business problem – delivery flags that set shipment expectation, corporate address indicators, and rural/urban coding.

We are always excited to open up additional services for our Worldview customers. If you want to understand more about Advanced Address Verification for India and discuss the challenges of addressing in India, give us a call. We’d love to help expand your Worldview.

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The Patagonian Express- Connecting Latin America Then & Now

I recently reread Paul Theroux’s book The Old Patagonian Express. His book details his journey by train from the suburbs of Boston to the tip end of Argentina by rail. Yes, one can truly travel the length of North, Central and South America by relatively contiguous passenger rail service. The first time I read this book was over 30 years ago when I was in high school. Now rereading it after having traveled extensively and establishing partnerships with companies throughout Latin America I have a greater appreciation for Theroux’s experiences captured in this body of work.

The Americas are full of rich and diverse cultures. In the age of the Internet these cultures have become more connected and accessible. eCommerce platforms such as Linio and Mercado Libre are thriving on the continued growth of consumer access to the Internet. At our company we have seen an intense interest in helping many companies validate and verify consumers and businesses in Mexico, Brazil, Columbia and Argentina. Age Verification to restrict minors from making inappropriate purchases online, Seller Verification to help ecommerce marketplaces ensure the quality of products offered on their platforms and Customer Identity checks for Fintech companies needing to complete AML/Compliance checks. All of these are services needed on a country by country basis.

An example of the robust nature of some of our data is in Mexico where GDC is able to offer coverage for about 96% of the population. What this means is that we cover the people in most of the major cities and population centers. We do not likely have significant coverage in Papaloapan or Tapachula which is located in the southern border region of Mexico. Those regions are slowly but steadily joining the rest of their brothers and sisters with access to the Internet but it will take more time to see them fully represented.

As I read about Theroux’s journey through the jungles of Mexico and the pampas plains of Argentina I marveled at where our paths crossed in the major cities of the Americas. I haven’t traveled by train in Latin America but I have experienced some of the same cultures as he did during his journey. Engaging with business owners in each country served to broaden my understanding of what the challenges are to produce a good ID Check and why the same data inputs captured in the US or Germany would not be the same type of needed data input in Columbia or Ecuador. Understanding that diversity in cultures is what makes my company unique in our community of vendors. More importantly our network of in country data providers understand the diversity of cultures that are resident in their respective countries and regions.

In Identity Verification, one size does not fit all. Different countries allow for the verification of different elements of a consumer and a business’s key details. Knowing the required data inputs to create a good match for a desired output ID is a key function of what we help provide at GDC. Whether it is producing a NAP (Name, Address, Phone) match or doing a CURP or other National ID verification, GDC can help. Helping an eCommerce or Fintech company reduce the amount of paper documentation needed to conduct seller verification is something the GDC Worldview platform can do in a real-time or batch-based process.

Now is Carnival season in the South. Celebrations are being had and people are visiting their lineage homes to celebrate with family and friends. I imagine Theroux’s trains are crowded with passengers taking the journey North and South on the Patagonian Express. I also imagine many of them are using mobile phones to connect with friends and family and to conduct commerce transactions as they roll through the night.

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GDC Onboards France’s Best In-Country Data Provider

This week at GDC we’re thrilled to add a new partner from France, bringing the best in-country data solutions for French address verification. This is an important addition for us; at 62 billion dollars in eCommerce sales, France is the sixth largest eCommerce market worldwide. On top of that France is a wired culture, and nearly 89% of the country’s internet users are shopping online, with individual purchase rates going up. From both a local and global perspective, France is an important player in the market and eCommerce companies need to have a reliable solution when it comes to French data.

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But the value of having our best in-country data provider goes beyond just meeting the market. When it comes to culture, French consumers place a high value on service quality. A DPD survey of online commerce habits showed that one in five deliveries in France was problematic, and 49% of the time this was because the delivery was late. They go on to show that French consumers overwhelmingly (84%) prefer things delivered directly to their home, rather than to post offices or other pick up sites.

 

eCommerce companies recognize the implications in this. They want to be able to attract new customers in France by offering convenient, on-time door deliveries. They also want to retain customers by making sure that they can follow through on that promise. After all, nearly 70% of customers said they wouldn’t buy again from a website that didn’t deliver on time.

 

This is a challenge in France. Delivering to secluded cottages in Champagné can be just as difficult as delivering to a one-room apartment off of la République in Paris because of how address information is used and changed. Generic data, which might be managed anywhere in the world, is never going to be able to effectively keep up with the dynamics of French society. That’s where our local data solution can provide the most ‘lift’.

 

The Dynamic French Landscape

 

Last spring, I visited a friend in Paris while checking up on some of our local European providers and I needed a couple of books. They happened to be on Amazon.fr, and I asked for the building’s address so I could get them delivered to me while I was there. My friend told me that it was better to send them somewhere else, since most of the packages for that apartment had never showed up at all.

 

Being in this business, I got interested and dug a bit deeper. The apartment did not have a number, which is common, and that the name used for deliveries was of a prior leaser, not my friend’s name, which is also common. The process of updating address and identity information with La Poste, the French postal service, can be prohibitive and so data can often be left outdated. In this case, the “address” of the apartment was under the name of a woman who had been leasing it 4 years ago. It’s like if I wanted to send something there, I would have to know the history of the apartment ownership to do it.

 

The reality of these deliveries is that the package might show up at the right building, but after that it’s anyone’s guess. It might end up at the right apartment, it might end up at another apartment, or it might not get delivered at all. In the end, I sent the delivery to an office in town that said they had no problems with deliveries. But if I had wanted to send it to that apartment, I would have had to write several names down on the package to get it to the right place. Depending on how that package changed hands it might still have gotten misplaced.

 

Local Data Knowledge as a Solution

 

This is obviously not the optimal way to do things, and that’s where GDC’s unique approach to address verification comes in. When we set out to solve this problem, it was apparent to us that generic datasets can be useful but are inherently problematic. They aren’t managed by people that understand the context of the data and they can often go without updates. At GDC, our team fans out across the globe to find the best LOCAL providers of knowledge, and then puts those companies through rigorous testing to make sure that their data is up to scratch. The result is what we call the ‘intelligent stack’. We take an address and redirect it to the best in-country data source in our consortium.

 

The results of using these local data sources are impressive, and our new partner in France is a powerful example of this. They combine data from marketing databases and private commercial sources that has coverage all across France and can have better resolution than other datasets. Our partner is also updating this data constantly, receiving information from sources constantly and applying address and verification rule changes at least once a month.

 

This kind of data and refresh rate prevents problems like the one I had in Paris, and can improve delivery reliability overall. Companies know this is critical to the French market, and they know just how fickle consumers can be if deliveries aren’t right the first time. It’s a survival need, and for a dynamic like France, generic data just doesn’t cut it. Businesses need local data for France, and with our newest French partner, we are pleased to deliver for our Worldview customers. If you are looking for a more reliable solution to delivering in France, or anywhere else in the world, please give me a call. We’d love to help expand your worldview.

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