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Getting economies ready for digital identity – the OIX Conference

Getting economies ready for digital identity – the OIX Conference

Digital identity was presented as an inevitability at the Open Identity Exchange conference. The event in London aimed to get verifiers and relying parties – organizations which need to check an individual’s identity – ready for the transition to digital, particularly in the UK.

Entitled ‘Making Digital Identity a Reality,’ it is billed as the only conference dedicated solely to digital identity and covered travel, e-signatures, healthcare and interoperability with benefits spanning economic growth, inclusion, efficiency and profit. A full introduction to the area of digital identity for relying parties was launched at the event. ‘Getting Ready for Digital ID’ is available to download from the OIX website.

Presenters showed how technologies such as biometrics have matured to the stage where authentication is robust enough for broader trust frameworks to be deployed, and with paper versions such as QR codes as well as digital devices. The discussions served to make businesses aware of the commercial benefits of digital ID.

Appropriate adoption of digital ID could improve brand image. It could allow a company to offer its services to more people than can currently prove their identities through traditional credentials, but beyond that, a brand which handles it well could be seen favorably by consumers and win market share.

Speakers talked about the near-future aim for digital identity to reach an equivalence with traditional credentials across a number of jurisdictions. They discussed how COVID-19 has acted as an accelerator for sectors to adapt to changes in the way people access business services and travel, but also for sectors to work together and demand government input for creating trust frameworks – and to simply make decisions.

Digital wallets will be able to contain information for multiple aspects of an individual’s life, just as physical wallets in pockets do now. These separate elements could talk to each other and self-sovereign identity could allow holders to control how. But for these to work, more agreements at the legal and technical level are needed nationally and internationally.

Examples were given for existing and successful trust frameworks from around the world for certain sectors such as healthcare and products such as credit cards and mobile phones where multinational negotiation has aligned business, legalities and technologies to make things work.

There was a sense of momentum as delegates and audience seem on the verge of being convinced that digital identity is coming, whether centralized or via self-sovereign means.

This will require legislative changes in most jurisdictions discussed, ranging from acceptance of digital ID as a credential even to the acceptance of cross-border e-signatures. Another substantial issue to tackle is liability and how it would be shared across stakeholders such as service providers, individuals and digital wallet providers.

There was a general consensus throughout the day that a decentralized approach is the most appropriate, but not one that would require users to have a smartphone. Cloud-based personal storage could also allow individuals to have access to all the elements of digital ID to use when needed.

Consensus over who pays for digital ID and verifications was that it lies with the relying party, not the individual. In some sectors, such as e-signatures this would require a large-scale market change to bring costs down. Using digital ID as a basis for other digital services could reduce the costs of interconnected services such as legal and contractual services.

Digital ID, e-signatures or some sort of combination could also improve the customer journey, something particularly significant in house-buying where the process is currently extremely stressful. Kitemarks were discussed as a public-facing mechanism to build confidence in the trust framework, though even a system such as kitemarks will still require a large amount of public education, and it is not clear who would provide that.

Beyond commercial advantages, the benefits of digital ID for the public sector and charitable sector were discussed as efficiencies that could save millions of man hours each year in proving staff identities in the workplace and for speeding potential volunteers through background checks.

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