To realize a world-class Digital Government Canada has set itself an ambition of:
“Digitize all public-facing government services so they are accessible by web and mobile phone and available behind a unified login system by 2025.”
A number of technologies, from Cloud computing through AI, will play an important role in achieving that goal, with the central linchpin being Digital Identity.
It will make possible the described unified login system, among other core capabilities that provide the keystone foundation for an entirely digital nation, and the cutting edge innovation of this field is ‘SSI’ – Self Sovereign Identity.
What is Self Sovereign Identity?
Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) represents the ultimate evolution of Digital Identity technologies and architecture to underpin and enable such government ID systems. As the name suggests the key principle is that Identity systems are not operated centrally by one organization, but rather the user themselves are in control of their own Digital Identity and personal data.
Sovrin provide this introductory article explaining SSI – They are central to this trend, operating the membership organization, a collection of ‘stewards’, who work together to ensure the integrity of the network much in the same way DNS is regulated. Via his blog tech industry luminary Phil Windley describes their launch.
One of Canada’s foremost experts in the field Tim Bouma identifies the current landscape of Government Identity systems in Canada in his blog Canada: Enabling Self-Sovereign Identity.
He highlights how many are implementing similar approaches to the UK’s Verify system in terms of centralized or federated models, with SSI adoption being at the very early stage, and in another blog articulates a vision of how this will provide for the ‘Anchors and Rails of a Digital Nation‘.
Identity in the Age of the Blockchain
An explosive field of potential lies in the intersection with the Blockchain. In his Reboot the Web of Trust presentation Christopher Allen defines this headline theme of Forging self-sovereign identities in the age of the blockchain.
In particular, at 6m50s he describes how the Indian identity scheme ‘Aadhaar’, a centralized government program, violates over a decade of first-world Identity best practices, with few laws against profiling, discrimination and abuse by law enforcement.
To avoid these pitfalls Allen says a key objective was to utilize the same tools used to protect buyers, sellers, traders and auctioneers to protect the helpless, documenting these principles into his defining white paper The Path to Self-Sovereign Identity, which was presented to the United Nations.
Canada’s Global Opportunity
The opportunity and real potential for Canada to become the world leader in the field of SSI is demonstrated through the local expertise and pioneering projects that are well ahead of anything being done elsewhere.
Canada boasts world-leading exemplar case studies for the role of Self Sovereign Identity for Digital Government scenarios, including the ACE and BC Orgbook projects.
The User-Centric Verifiable Digital Credentials Challenge is intended to accelerate this momentum, and grow adoption across many more use cases.
“The Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada (TBS) and Shared Services Canada (SSC) are seeking a standardized method to issue and rapidly verify portable digital credentials across many different contexts, thereby reducing human judgement error, increasing efficiency and ensuring digital credential veracity using cryptography.”
Use Cases and Vendors
The winning vendors are documented here, which lists the use cases they intend to implement and demonstrate:
- Bluink – Demonstrate eID-Me interoperability with Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs), WC3 Verifiable Credentials, and JSON-LD specifications.
- Aviary Tech – Demonstrate how cannabis licensees can use their government issued verifiable credentials to coordinate directly with the federal supply chain, rather than relying on the many integrations currently required.
- SecureKey – Enable users to share verified data from trusted partners including banks, telcos, insurance, and credit agencies. Issuing organizations will be able to create official digital credentials.
- Terrahub – Independently, cryptographically and rapidly verify an individual’s ability to perform a job or enter a site without the need for 3rd party verification.
- TrustScience – Demonstrate how a set of credentials containing the information (e.g., time of hiring, time of termination, employer, employer id, citizen id) along with the metadata are managed in a wallet controlled by a citizen and also be stored by the employer to be transmitted to the Canadian government.
- 2Keys – Demonstrate how issuers of evidence of foundational identity (birth certificates or permanent resident cards) can issue a digital equivalent (verifiable credential) that supports enrolment and delegation processes using verifiable credentials and supports an omni-channel approach to allow a user to present verifiable credentials online or in-person with the ability to cryptographically verify the provenance of the credentials whether connected or offline.
This webinar replay shares detailed demos of all the pilots.