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DHS turns to a contest to encourage digital ID use with redesign of its digital wallet

Categories Biometric R&D  |  Biometrics News
DHS turns to a contest to encourage digital ID use with redesign of its digital wallet

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is challenging designers to create a better user interface for the behemoth organization’s digital wallet.

This is a good time for designers cooped up at home because of COVID-19. But there also is a growing international conversation about the need for digital IDs and about the cultural hurdles that must be crossed to create them.

Bureaucrats apparently think the current DHS interface falls short in ease of use, trustworthiness and digital identity credentials management. That is what they are looking for in this challenge, at least. DHS has not shared the incumbent design, so entrants will be working somewhat in the dark. It is not clear if biometrics are built into existing interface, though they are not listed as a requirement for the new one.

Designers have until October 15 to submit an interface that will “instill confidence in the user of the digital wallet that their online interactions are secure and that the parties they are interacting with are legitimate,” according to DHS’ announcement.

The interface is critical to a wallet’s success, the department announcement implies, but it is not spending like it is.

The total prize is $25,000 split four ways. Up to three first-round picks will win $5,000 each, and the grand prize winner takes $10,000.

Another design challenge, a very worthy competition to help those with disabilities use autonomous vehicles, offers $5 million in cash prizes.

The winning DHS interface will have to meet the standards and specifications continuously being developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), as well as for Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs).

One of the concerns digital ID proponents have is global interoperability. While the department is not building an ID, it is encouraging that its leaders see the value in open-standards software development.

What cannot be solved with standards and specifications, however, is how users and potential adopters react to a digital wallet. Apple Computer has had a digital wallet app for years, but even some of its most ardent technophile customers ignore the app. As designed, it seems superfluous or complicated.

Along the same lines, DHS leaders are taking perceived security seriously in the challenge description. The wallet must give people the sense that using it will be at least as secure as any other financial app.

Success at DHS could help people give serious consideration to digital IDs. The convenience of holding so much important data to conduct important transactions cannot be understated. If people give them a chance.

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