Modern technology gives us many things.

British Columbia pioneers Self-Sovereign Digital Identity

Digital Identity refers to the various usernames and log-on procedures we use to interact with web sites and other digital services.

Michael Gorriz explains how Identity is a universal function, one that spans across government, banking and every other online service that we use.

Government identity programs, such as Gov.UK Verify, seek to leverage this interconnectedness through linking their authentication systems with others like banks to streamline the procedure from a users perspective, an approach known as ‘federated identity’.

Self-Sovereign Digital Identity

However some in the industry will describe this as an ‘old technology’ approach, and that the future is one of ‘Self-Sovereign Identity’, being pioneered by organizations such as the Sovrin Foundation.

As the diagram from this Tieto article describes it can be seen as the first step in a maturity journey, an improvement on from centralized model which means a duplicated identity procedure for each and every web site.

The article introduces Self-Sovereign Identity and positions it as the ultimate conclusion to this maturity journey.

Described in detail in this ID2020 white paper as the name suggests the primary feature is an identity mechanism owned and controlled by the user themselves, and introduced in this short presentation the fundamental principles are described as:

  • Every individual human being is the original source of their own Identity.
  • Identity is not an administrative mechanism for others to control.
  • Each individual is the root of their own identity, and central to its adminstration.
  • The role of names, citizenship, licences and other credentials should be distinct.

In short it places control and ownership of identity in the hands of the users themselves, not a third party like banks or the government, setting in place the keystone foundation for an entirely citizen-centric Digital Democracy.

Via his blog tech industry luminary Phil Windley describes the launch of the Sovrin Network, the world’s first self-sovereign identity (SSI) network, intended to implement the technologies and these principles.

British Columbia

An especially helpful primer to this technology is offered through this webinar (below) from British Columbia, one of the first governments to pioneer adoption, which describes it from a practical, day to day value point of view, in terms of how it might be adopted by governments for functions like online drivers licence services.

John Jordan, Province of British Columbia, describing their work around Digital Identity, collaborating with the Federal and Ontario governments too. He lays out how they have been and still are today globally pioneering the role identity plays in facilitating Digital Government services.

Particularly noteworthy points include:

  • Enacting the legislation required to underpin the technology framework for Identity-enabled digital services.
  • How previous Identity approaches (the “old technology”) resulted in semi-digital versions of the offline paper-based process, resulting in yet more multiple online accounts, an effect greatly exasperated by the many levels of government citizens must interact with to complete one process (eg. business permits etc.)
  • A Continuous Integration capability enabled by RedHat Openshift-based Government as a Platform architecture.
  • Starting off with a proof-of-concept to trial key technologies like the Blockchain, in conjunction with DIACC and based on an early version of the Hyperledger Fabric.
  • How the key is to approach design models as an Ecosystem, the ‘Decentralized Identity Solar System’.

My favourite part is the introduction, where John describes how the part of Canada he comes from is where the beavers and cows are. That’s just peak Canadian.

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