How digital identity can improve lives in a post-COVID-19 world

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Julie Dawson, Director, Regulatory and Policy, Yoti & Cristian Duda, Project Lead, Digital Identity, World Economic Forum


  • Industries from travel to health to education will recover more quickly if solutions once primarily associated with the finance sector are harnessed effectively.
  • Building trust with citizens around the secure usage of personal data will be key to creating effective frameworks.
  • Policymakers need to move as quickly as the technology.

The World Travel and Tourism Council predicted in November 2020 that 174 million people could lose their travel-related jobs that year alone due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To re-boot the global economy and re-connect society physically and virtually in a new reality, people will need to engage physically and digitally with public authorities and businesses.

But the potential is bigger: the possibility to safely claim who we are will impact how we live and how fast the world economy can recover – alleviating key risks highlighted in World Economic Forum’s COVID-19 Risk Outlooks Report.

Human-centric digital identities are an enabler to alleviate the global risks of health, movement, travel and trade highlighted in the COVID-19 Risks Outlook, May 2020.

The need for trust

The advantages of trusted claims are multiple from binding health tests to an individual being able to enter venues or travel, to relying upon education and work certificates issued remotely, to remotely signing property contracts. But with contact tracing, self-declaration or health credential approaches facing scrutiny – how to enable the new normal?

People are worried about the impact of technology on their personal data management (66% of people lack trust in data based on the Edelman Trust Barometer), but there is one fundamental digital infrastructure layer that can bring transparency to interactions: digital identity.

Table show global risks of health, movement, travel and trade highlighted in the COVID-19 Risks Outlook, May 2020.
Human-centric digital identities are an enabler to alleviate the global risks of health, movement, travel and trade highlighted in the COVID-19 Risks Outlook, May 2020. Image: World Economic Forum

Human-centric digital identities: an enabler to rebuild economy and trust

Human-centric, digital identity lets people know who they are dealing with without revealing more than the strictly necessary information. Digital identities give the user control of their data – they provide clear audit trails and streamline how businesses and governments allow people to register and access their services and trade. It has great potential for online education, issuing employment credentials, fighting fraud or proving one’s health status. Digital identity was often confined to the technology community or banking’s Know Your Customer checks and to combat money laundering.

With our digital footprint extending into all walks of life, digital identification is becoming a global topic. A healthy digital identity network widens civic participation and supports societal advancement, a case in point would be the Estonian digital identity approach, which allows the nation’s public and private sector e-service information systems to link up and function in harmony.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about digital identity?

In an era of unprecedented data and ubiquitous intelligence, it is essential that organizations reimagine how they manage personal data and digital identities. By empowering individuals and offering them ways to control their own data, user-centric digital identities enable trusted physical and digital interactions – from government services or e-payments to health credentials, safe mobility or employment.

The World Economic Forum curates the Platform for Good Digital Identity to advance global digital identity activities that are collaborative and put the user interest at the center.

The Forum convenes public-private digital identity collaborations from travel, health, financial services in a global action and learning network – to understand common challenges and capture solutions useful to support current and future coalitions. Additionally, industry-specific models such as Known Traveller Digital Identity or decentralized identity models show that digital identity solutions respecting the individual are possible.

Digital identities are widely accepted

While government’s role is key, regulators have understood that they don’t hold all the cards and that solutions are needed across the public and private sectors. Digital identity trust frameworks led by governments working with the private sector are emerging – defining claims for people and organizations that should be broadly recognized.

Such frameworks have emerged in Canada, the EU, the Smart Africa Alliance, Australia and New Zealand, and in vertical market sectors from health and employment to travel, encompassing data responsibility, cyber security, interoperability, inclusion, governance, redress and liability.

‘As proven in Canada, a digital ID ecosystem is not only a motor to connect people, governments and the private sector in a trusted and transparent way – but it also accelerates participation in the economy, work and mobility’—Vidya ShankarNarayan, Assistant Deputy Minister and CIO, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and previously Director General, Digital Government

Human-led identity approaches avoid surveillance and mistrust

While trust models vary among regions following the eminently practical Good Digital Identity guidelines will help to open an era of transparency:

  • Strong governance and transparency of the data and business models behind digital identity provision are key to build trust with people. To avoid surveillance, the safe capture, storage, transfer and agreed usage of identity data requires strict oversight.
  • Digital identity provision needs to be interoperable. Some digital identity models have developed from banking communities sharing data, others from payment networks or mobile operators. The next chapter must break new ground and function across sectors and borders – as a key piece in establishing trade areas or travel corridors.
  • The accessibility of digital identity systems will be judged. In many countries, citizens do not have access to identity documents, while people with disabilities, or without technical skills or the latest devices may be disadvantaged. An opportunity for new trust solutions now emerges: e.g. tech for good to open hitherto closed data sources from companies and authorities; new community vouching models – e.g. paying bills regularly, giving blood or volunteering as verifiable claims of existence.

The risks of doing nothing

The cost of not pursuing digital identities is high. Being able to digitally prove claims is vital to enable paperless, contactless, streamlined processes across public and private sectors. Sadly, COVID-19 has shown many cases of fraud applications for grants from bogus organisations, selling non-genuine tests to citizens, setting up fake companies or enlisting fake directors to harvest data. In the UK alone, Policy Exchange estimates that fraud and error could cost the government between £1.3bn-£7.9bn ($1.8bn-$10.8bn) in 2020.

Illustration shows the intersection of digital identity in social and economic sectors.
Digital identity enables trusted interactions needed now and in the future global society and economy.

Next steps for governments and companies

Governments around the world are spending huge amounts to bail out economies due to the impacts of COVID-19, looking for GDP gains, streamlining economies and decreasing fraud. Digital identity enables all this, as well as robust testing regimes, opening travel and work places. The value creation of digital ID is equivalent to 3-13% of GDP by 2030, according to McKinsey.

So what needs to be done?

  • Frameworks may have to be rewritten to enable digital forms of identification to be accepted at parity with physical ID documents.
  • Policymakers need to be able to move as quickly as the technology and times in which they live. Data protection authorities must offer sufficient data protection legal bases to enable biometric digital identity to function.
  • For citizens to trust and be willing participants, organizations must take the time to contribute to the global dialogue between trust frameworks and explain their models clearly. Innovative thinking is needed to enable citizens of all backgrounds to participate in this digital public infrastructure.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Pro-EU forces won a 70% triumph in the European elections

Greater EU Civil Protection capacity needed in light of lessons from COVID-19

The world’s impact in a small Brazilian town and the increased demand for mental health

What will education look like in 20 years? Here are 4 scenarios

High level political talks didn’t break the stalemate in Ukraine

EU officially launches its first naval mission against migrant smugglers

Half the world’s refugee children not in school, UN agency finds

What does Tsipras have to offer to the rest of Europe? Is it worth an early advance of €10 billion? Berlin sturdily denies it

Spread Her Wings: Let Her Fly

This is the environmental catastrophe you’ve probably never heard of

Protecting farmers and quality products: vote on EU farm policy reform plans

Donors must do more to align development finance with climate goals

Can the Notre-Dame fire freeze the ‘Yellow Vests’ uprising?

What we need is more (and better) multilateralism, not less

ICC Appeals Chamber acquits former Congolese Vice President Bemba from war crimes charges

Venezuelan exodus to Ecuador reaches record levels: UN refugee agency steps up aid

Here’s how innovation could help car companies hit by COVID-19

Adriatic Sea: MEPs adopt multiannual plan for fisheries

GSMA Mobile 360 Series – Latin America, in association with The European Sting

How the Fourth Industrial Revolution can help us beat COVID-19

Dutch voters reject EU-Ukraine partnership and open a new pandora’s box for the EU

How we can embrace the electrical vehicle transition by adopting smart charging

Trade in fake Italian goods costs economy billions of euros

No hard drivers in sight to remodel the stagnating affairs of the EU

Charges against Baha’i in Yemen must be dropped: UN experts urge release of detainees

Conditions deteriorating alarmingly in Yemen, warns senior UN official

Six months after the Beirut port explosion: reflections from a first responder

5 things you need to know about your microbiome

GREXIT final wrap-up: nobody believed Aesop’s boy who cried wolf so many times

EU Parliament raises burning issues over the FTA with the US

UN Security Council hails ‘courage’ of Afghan voters

TTIP is not dead as of yet, the 15th round of negotiations in New York shouts

The Tears of lovely Memories

Parliament elects the von der Leyen Commission

Boosting the EU’s Green Recovery: EU invests over €2 billion in 140 key transport projects to jump-start the economy

The Great Reset needs great leaders to help the most vulnerable

How global tech can drive local healthcare innovation in China

EU elections 2019: Rise of nationalist trends and populism in Europe challenges the EU edifice

MEPs back measures to reconcile career and private life

Fostering global citizenship in medical students through exchanges

Brazilian officer a ‘stellar example’ of why more women are needed in UN peacekeeping

Dreaming of China

Code of Practice on Disinformation one year on: online platforms submit self-assessment reports

South Asia can become an innovation hub. Here’s how

First calls under Horizon Europe to be launched by the European Research Council

European Commission calls on national political parties to join efforts to ensure free and fair elections in Europe

An American duel in Brussels: Salesforce against Microsoft over Linkedin deal

How Mobile Technology is Changing the Healthcare System

SRHR the indispensable ally in ending HIV

Mental health in the pandemic: how to stay emotionally stable?

Suicide Prevention: Using Graduation as a Transformative Tool

As the inventor of copy and paste dies, here are other computing innovations we take for granted

Give a chance to the brothers of Ailan: reception of refugees in Greece

Rare diseases are more common than you might think

Coronavirus: rescEU medical stockpile expands in four Member States

Finland has giant supermarkets that only stock second-hand goods

Working Muslim women are a trillion-dollar market

Why does the whole world want Britain to stay in the EU?

New rules make household appliances more sustainable

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s