Digital Nation

Building the Canadian Digital Identity Metasystem

The keystone foundation of Canada's Digital Economy will be a pan-Canadian Digital Identity Metasystem.

Alex Benay describes how a national Digital Identity program is a keystone foundation for a Canadian digital economy blueprint, enabling Canada’s trusted digital identity vision.

As Neil Parmenter from the Canadian Bankers Association explains it would provide a universal framework, an ecosystem, for accelerating digital capabilities across all industries such as Digital Banking.

The concept of an ‘Identity Metasystem’ has been under development for twenty years.

Microsoft Identity guru Kim Cameron defined the concept in 2006 and more recently ‘Self Sovereign Identity’ guru Phil Windley describes it’s evolution up to today’s cutting edge progress and innovations like SSI.

Tim Bouma, Canada’s SSI expert, builds on this to add the further definition of its role as a Global Verification Network: A network to independently verify without reliance on trusted intermediaries.”

Identity Networks

In their blog ‘Why Canada Needs a Digital ID Framework‘ DIACC describes a compelling argument for accelerating the development and adoption of a Canadian digital identity system.

The mission of the DIACC is to unlock interoperable capabilities of the public and private sector to secure Canada’s full and beneficial participation in the digital economy by fulfilling the following strategic goals aligned with their 10 Principles for an Identity Ecosystem.

They define the implementation of this ecosystem through ‘Identity Networks‘:

“Some countries, such as the Nordics, have a history of collaborative approaches to digital identity that is suitable for regulated services. In the case of the Nordics, the banks have over several years provided “BankID” services for use in financial services, government services, and the wider economy. Several other initiatives – some national, some international – are seeking to create similarly robust and ubiquitous digital identity networks in other regions.

These identity networks will allow digital identities to be portable, they will help to detect and reduce fraud, and they will provide mechanisms to ensure identity data is up to date. They will create collaborative environments where the needs of all stakeholders (not just a few) are met. The work of the DIACC, and in particular the Pan-Canadian Trust Framework, is helping to ensure that this is accomplished in identity networks in Canada and internationally.”

DIACC estimates a $15 billion value to the Canadian economy through implementation of this ecosystem, building a rising tide that floats all boats of improved trust and security across government, banking and other online transactions.

For example they highlight that during this time of coronavirus crisis there is a massive rise in remote working, a trend that is likely to continue, and that too presents risks that identity would address. Canada as a nation of digital identity would be better prepared to continue working in the event of future crisis and is thus a critical infrastructure that should be invested in accordingly.

Spotlight on Mastercard

One example of a member participating in DIACC is Mastercard, demonstrating the point that banking would be one of the industries that benefits from the rising tide. Canada has fallen behind in key markets like Open Banking and it is a trend where identity is a central enabler. They describe:

Identity is what makes our existence in the world official: it is how countries recognize and see us, and it establishes citizens’ rights to national benefits. It is also the foundation for participating in the economy, and more importantly, to help grow the economy.

and their own identity standards, notably their model for digital identity, a method for embodying privacy-by-design and enabling digital interactions to occur with minimal data exchanged and only when needed. It will safeguard data and the use of data effectively such that the users are in control, with a person’s identity securely bound to their smartphone.

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