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‘Being open’ for achieving global interoperability in digital public infrastructure

‘Being open’ for achieving global interoperability in digital public infrastructure
 

By Jaume Dubois,  CEO of ID30

In a digital world that connects everyone for everything, establishing global interoperability across entities, sectors, and countries becomes an imperative.

I want to emphasize the importance and the meaning of “being open,” a guiding message of Dr. Joseph Atick for the ID4Africa Annual General Meeting Segment 3 on Interoperability.

I recall how in 2018, ID4Africa began raising awareness about the urgency of breaking silos, addressing vendor lock-in, and fostering inclusion. However, it was the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic that forced us to realize that these aspirations must be more than wishes.

During the ID4Africa 2023 AGM, we heard insightful experiences from countries such as India, Pakistan, Gabon, Somalia, and many others. These nations recognize the urgency of building mutualized and open infrastructures that can support digital services in both public and private sectors.

As highlighted by Pramod Varda during the ID4Africa conference, governments need to “Think Infrastructure,” they cannot embark on full-scale digital transformation alone. Instead, they must adopt an infrastructure-oriented approach, focusing on building enablers and allowing public and private entities to create solutions on top of them.

The need for global interoperability

“BEING OPEN” is a prerequisite for achieving global interoperability in between infrastructures and solutions and the ID4Africa 2023 AGM’s Segment 3 participants unanimously agreed that interoperability is of utmost importance and should rely on standards.

While we witnessed various approaches during the AGM, such as OSIA, MOSIP, GovStack, G2P Connect, and India Stack, there remains a need for convergence among these different initiatives.

And currently, there is no complete consensus on globally agreed interoperability standards, despite addressing the same objective of building DPIs. There should be convergence to avoid countries having to make a choice.

In my unique position, at the intersection of several key initiatives, I can see the gaps also understand the obstacles. I trust I am well-equipped to facilitate convergence among these efforts.

For achieving global interoperability, we can analyze the enabling factors of successful convergence initiatives.

Firstly, OpenID Connect was highlighted as a consensus for interoperability of identity verification during the AGM. It is widely adopted globally because it is simple, it uses common technologies, sector-agnostic, and already in use across various domains. As Gail Hodges, executive director at the OpenID Foundation, aptly said, OpenID Connect is “everybody’s friend.”

Secondly, the rise of Digital Wallets and the support for W3C Verifiable Credentials presented during the AGM will contribute to progress in global interoperability. These credentials are simple to issue and use with common devices, providing security, privacy protection, and sector-agnostic capabilities.

Lastly, GovStack applies the best principles and integrates the best worldwide approaches to design technology-agnostic and interoperable Building Block specifications. We have received contributions from esteemed entities such as Estonia, India, Europe, the UK, Singapore, and various countries in Africa. With a holistic government approach, our aim is to prioritize interoperability before seeking specific solutions. The involvement of the International Telecommunication Union adds the necessary legitimacy and relevance to foster the emergence of required global interoperability.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the success of interoperability standards is directly linked to their simplicity and public availability of required technologies.

Furthermore, hosting these standards under a technology-agnostic body has proven to be effective.

It is worth noting that global interoperability is not achieved by imposing solutions but rather emerging from a consensual open debate.

Recommendations

1/ As we move forward, it is crucial for governments to approach identity as an infrastructure rather than as a standalone solution.

2/ Global interoperability will not be built solely by good leaders but by good listeners, fostering a “being open” mindset.

3/ To facilitate the establishment of global interoperability, it is vital that non-solution providers take the lead and align their efforts with governments.

Entities like GovStack, the OpenID Foundation, and ID4Africa are well-suited to host and moderate the emergence of these global standards.

Together, let us embrace openness, collaboration, and interoperability to unlock the full potential of digital transformation for all.

About the author

I’m Jaume Dubois, the CEO of ID30, a public digital transformation advisory company. We re-balance the strengths between government teams and their interfaces, we assist governments in building their digital plans and navigating the complex landscape of digital solutions.

I also have the privilege of leading the Identity Building Block workgroup at GovStack. Together, we accelerate countries’ digital transformation by preparing the interoperability of key building blocks that form an open and robust Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI). Through the delivery of specifications and APIs, for ensuring that candidate building blocks will be interoperable.

Moreover, I serve as a Technical Advisor for ANID in Togo, supporting their efforts in the rollout of the open source MOSIP as part of the WURI program.

DISCLAIMER: Biometric Update’s Industry Insights are submitted content. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Biometric Update.

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