More equitable digital ID systems needed to encourage adoption, ID2020 expert panel says

Biometrics and digital ID

For good digital identity systems to be sustainable, their value proposition to end users will need to be clearer than in the past, say experts participating in the first ‘Summit Sessions’ webinar from ID2020, titled ‘Good Digital ID for All: How Do We Get There?’

McKinsey Global Institute suggested that the adoption of good digital ID could be worth a six percent increase in GDP among emerging economies, and three percent in the world’s more developed nations. Challenges like those associated with Aadhaar and Gov.uk Verify show the challenges that remain to striking an appropriate balance between various goals, which at times come into competition.

The webinar was moderated by ID2020 Board Chairman Kim Gagne.

“We at ID2020 believe that with good ID technology based on a common set of standards, tested and proven in the field, as well as the appropriate legal and operational framework, and open and transparent engagement with a wide array of stakeholders, we can get there,” Gagne explained.

The expert panel was made up of Simon McDougal of the UK Information Commissioner’s Office, Ankur Patel of Microsoft, Accenture’s Global Lead for decentralized ID and biometrics Christine Leong, and Sheila Warren of the World Economic Forum.

McDougal noted the need to bring communities around the world along with the advances and innovations that are occurring in the digital ID space, and the effort that will be needed to deliver them with trust.

Leong related her experience re-proving her identity and status, including with her employer, after moving from one country to another during the pandemic. People with less of the privilege and advantages that Leong can draw on could have their lives significantly disrupted just trying to prove things about themselves that are already well established in other domains.

Warren told a story about having her identity stolen while in the hospital giving birth as an example of the pressures that arise from the value propositions of different kinds of credentials. She draws a line from there to digital identity as the most important aspect in delivering financial inclusion to those currently locked out of the system, and the need for equal, non-exploitative access.

Gagne noted the need to advance digital ID projects down the tracks of technology, implementation, standards and adoption, and asked about the balance between them.

The consensus was that while all are important, standards work is well underway, and can be finalized based on the other elements, while the technology to enable good digital ID for all likely already exists.

Leong said that her motto for digital ID right now is: “Adoption, adoption, adoption, adoption!”

Patel pointed out that for adoption of digital ID systems to be motivated by value, the systems need to be more equitable. This results in systems, such as a digital ID app, that start with an adoption spike and then fade away. Sustainability requires people to have an incentive to move beyond their habitual ways of doing things.

Patel considers what the responsibilities of the various parties in an identity transaction are, and what tools can be used to decentralize the roles.

The discussion turned to related digital ID issues including imbalances of power in identity transactions, economic incentives for identity ecosystem stakeholders, and the example of the Known Traveler Trusted Identity as a successful project.

The ID2020 Summit Series continues on October 15 with a webinar on ‘Digital Immunization Certificates: Designing for a New Era in Global Health.’

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