Local digital ID ecosystems begin developing around OSIA open standards
OSIA, the modular digital ID system with interchangeable components, is now operational in multiple countries, allowing governments to save money and local companies to become more involved in the identity ecosystem, according to government representatives and identity startups speaking at the Festival of Identity webinar. It is also involved in the EU’s upcoming biometric digital wallet.
Since the Secure Identity Alliance (SIA) launched the global Open Standards Identity APIs (OSIA) initiative in Johannesburg in 2019, it developed the framework for allowing the various parts of a digital ID system, from biometrics enrolment to credential authentication, to be developed by separate suppliers and still speak to each other as an overall system.
“Nigeria has been burned by bad actors,” said Common Identity Ltd, Nigeria Chief Innovation Officer Olatunji Durodola, referring to the constant bills the government faced for maintaining and updating its legacy digital identity system.
Common Identity is a private company that worked with the Nigerian government to launch Africa’s first mobile identity system to use OSIA to verify identities against Nigeria’s National Identity Registry. He said that almost 10 million people have downloaded the app since December.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure there is a level playing field for everyone, because some of the smaller players are actually involved in the Nigerian system,” Durodola said in the ‘OSIA Gets Real: It’s Time to Unlock the Identity Ecosystem’ webinar. “We advise them whatever they have deployed in Nigeria in the past they need to update and upgrade to make sure it matches with OSIA interfaces.”
Durodola said that Nigeria is aiming for a single version of truth, a single identity per person with the aim of self-sovereign identity (SSI). A token system has launched and will be tested between July and September and which will be further implemented via OSIA. He also said that in the next few months Nigeria will explore the possibility of implementing ISO standards for mobile drivers’ licences.
Five countries in the last three months have approached Nigeria to learn how they could implement a similar system, according to Durodola.
The DRC’s Scientific Commission Coordinator of the National Plan for Digitalization, Musavuli Mbutho Moussa, explained how vendor lock-in had been one of the biggest concerns for the government as it aims to bring ID to all during the current president’s term in office.
“There is also the need to standardize the interfaces. There are too many startups who would like to join this ecosystem, but without standardized interfaces they can face many difficulties,” said Musavuli, who stated that a new chamber of commerce was providing training to companies wishing to work with the OSIA standards.
Within the government itself, information sessions are helping departments understand the possibilities of the modular system.
EU digital wallet
“We answered the EU consultation, back last year, and we had confirmation that our approach is factored in,” said the chair of the OSIA Working Group, Debora Comparin. “We welcome the approach of the EU of the regulation – everything has to be defined as we’re at the beginning of the process – but definitely we are working on it.”
The smartphone app would form a digital ID for EU citizens and allow them to interact with local authorities in any member state.
OSIA is aiming to expand its own capacity and work with academics on improving privacy standards. is exploring becoming an independent organization. “What we would like is to work towards international recognition of the OSIA specification, for OSIA to become a recognized international standard,” said Comparin, who added that there is the longer-term aim of OSIA becoming an autonomous organization.