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GAIN one year in: demos successful but plenty of work ahead to reach global interoperability

SIA in process of joining
GAIN one year in: demos successful but plenty of work ahead to reach global interoperability

Creating ways for digital identities to work anywhere in the world is endlessly complex. GAIN, or the Global Assured Identity Network, set out to get the world ready a year ago and, ahead of a more formal report, a workshop of members gave an overview of some of the progress so far as well as determining what to concentrate on next. Even how to achieve interoperability is still up for discussion.

The proof of concept community group mobilized last December,  and has reported some of its early results. The group has managed the first implementation of a common OpenID Connect for Identity Assurance profile (OIDC 4 IDA), demonstrating an interoperable exchange of digital identity data, explained Mark Haine from the community group. Four identity providers and two relying parties have had successful demos.

Haine described the endeavor of multiple ‘planes’ sitting atop the untrusted internet. The Data Plane is where the digital ID exchange takes place. Above that comes the Control Plane, the network of networks or ecosystems, and will host trust frameworks.

One challenge is trying to build a Control Plane that can achieve internet scale without incurring huge overhead costs. The next step is to try to build a network of networks in a way that any existing network can join without having to change internally.

Countries are going to have to establish lists of what they accept in terms of credentials, for example as lodged in a digital wallet. Canada has committed to working with GAIN, Singapore has agreed, OIX is already part of the UK working group and there are meetings and follow ups with iSpirit for India’s Aadhaar, with Australia and NIST in the U.S.

The network is working to formalize and simplify its task. From common naming and language that would allow easier descriptions of credentials, to common policy and frameworks, the team is trying to isolate use cases to develop and demonstrate aspects of interoperability.

Various forms of interoperability are being explored, including smart wallets, levels of assurance (a particularly thorny area for interoperability) and credentials. Avoiding any form of central hub that could control interoperability or exert power is being avoided.

The Secure Identity Alliance (SIA) is in the process of joining. Deborah Comparin, from the organization, said that it wanted to question what role legal identity plays in the ongoing development of GAIN. Nick Mothershaw, chief identity strategist for OIX, hopes for many more not-for-profits to join.

“We’re really starting to get into the weeds now – but it’s still a massive challenge,” said Mothershaw.

Digital ID interoperability will be among the topics explored at OIX’s Identity Trust Conference 2022, which will be held Thursday in London.

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