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What makes a good digital wallet? EIC 2024 answers

What makes a good digital wallet? EIC 2024 answers

Europe has been forging ahead with its plan to give each European Union citizen a digital wallet that can be used across all member states. But to make the EU Digital Identity (EUDI) Wallet a reality, many more questions need to be answered.

Last week, the European Identity and Cloud Conference 2024 in Berlin invited experts to discuss everything from decentralized digital identity to open wallets and interoperability issues.

On top of many minds were the regulatory shifts in Europe and their effects on national digital identification efforts. Others tried to understand how different countries are approaching the task of bringing the EUDI Wallet to life for its citizens. Many spoke about the future of identity and the technologies that will build it.

“I believe that as we are moving into decentralized identity,” says Didier Serra, head of digital trust services at Gen Digital, the company behind cybersecurity solutions such as Norton, Avast and Avira.

Serra spoke at a panel discussing global interoperability for identity and payment wallets. While decentralization may bring more complexity to digital identity, giving power over data to users could also solve some issues.

“When we empower our users and they have agency over their data, then the user becomes the point of interaction. And when the user is the point of interaction, it removes a lot of risk,” he adds.

One of the more difficult parts to keep track of when it comes to the EUDI Wallet is how national governments are tackling the project. Each EU country has been making its own moves in digital identity, bringing forth its own innovation at a rapid pace.

In Germany, the government has recently published a list of companies that will compete to test prototypes for the EUDI Wallet. The German Federal Agency for Disruptive Innovation (SPRIND) will fund six companies to solve the most important challenges in designing a digital wallet for German users.

“The goal is really to help the public sector to understand through iterations what innovations are needed to get us the wallets,” says Kristina Yasuda, SPRIND’s identity system architect.

At a panel on open source wallets, the main question was why go open source at all. One reason is no licensing fees and fast adoption: The EU has 27 member states and if a rule is set than countries will follow, says Konstantin Papaxanthis, CEO and founder of Scytáles

“In the passport business, a lot of installations are also based on open source,” he says.” That’s why the biometrics in passport bloomed up very fast.”

Dirk Backofen from T-Systems, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, added that the importance of trust was long underestimated in Europe. Open source can also add transparency as people can check the code.

One of the main goals of the EUDI Wallet is to make cross-border interactions easier, allowing citizens to live, work, and travel across member states. But interaction is also happening among organizations trying to make that happen.

Major identity foundations such as the Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF), Kantara Initiative and Open Identity Exchange (OIX) have been working on setting up identity standards and collaborating on governance frameworks and certification programs for decentralized technologies.

Not one organization can resolve all of this on its own, panelists said during a session inviting executive directors of ID foundations. Each of them is working on its own piece of the puzzle providing specialist knowledge.

“I’m often asked, which one do I join so I can be in the room where it happens? And my answer is all of them,” says Judith Fleenor, executive director at the Trust Over IP Foundation.

Finally, the question that may be the most crucial is what kind of digital wallets we want. For countries outside of the EU, the answer is a wallet that works even beyond European borders.

“It is important that the technologies that we implement are actually based on open standards implemented in a manner that allows for global interoperability. That’s easier to say than it is to actually do,” says Anil John, technical director at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

An EU citizen who arrives in the U.S. should be able to present a wallet to local border and immigration agencies and have the documents and information inside it verified by U.S. infrastructure.

“We should be able to issue a credential and attestation for example, an employment authorization document that allows you to work in the U.S. into that wallet,” he says. “In order to make that vision possible, we need to have an agreement on what makes a good wallet.”

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