Looking Ahead in 2020

Please note: This is an edited excerpt of an email I have sent to our Public Sector Pan-Canadian Trust Framework Working Group. These are my thoughts only, and are not intended to be an official representation or warrant.

Welcome to 2020, everyone!

We have our first weekly call next week. I am hoping most people are back from the holidays, to attend this call, but likely we will resume our work in earnest, the following week.

In the meantime, I want to convey some of my thoughts (these are my thoughts only) on how I see the upcoming year shaping up. I believe it will be a breakout year for digital identity, and for the underlying technical infrastructure that we need to achieve our goals. I see the work progressing on two fronts: 1) Pan-Canadian Trust Framework, and, 2) Verifiable Credentials/Decentralized Identifiers Deployment.

1. PCTF Development and Assessment

As you are aware, we are working on the next version of the Public Sector Profile of the PCTF, which we hope to have a draft out later this month. We are working through all of the comments received (approx. 150), and consolidating the conformance criteria in an accompanying worksheet that can be used as an assessment tool.

We had an important milestone last year, namely, MyAlberta Digital ID, went live into the My Service Canada Account, as a result of the PCTF Assessment. We (i.e., TBS on behalf of the Government of Canada) are now working with the Province of British Columbia to accept the BC Services Card Program as a trusted digital identity; we are hoping that this will go live in early 2020 (no official timeline or announcement yet).

On the international front, we have had some good developments: Participation in the Digital Nations, is giving us a broader perspective on how we can collaborate with the larger community on digital identity, in particular enabling mutual recognition of digital identity between nations, either bilateral, or through frameworks such as eIDAS. As you may recall, back in 2015 when we commenced on the PCTF development, we drew heavy inspiration from the eIDAS framework, adapted for the Canadian context; we are now reaping the benefits of that inspiration.

We have also developed informal collaborative relationships with the World Bank and UNHCR where there is a recognition that we can complement each other’s benefits. As well, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) issued their draft guidance for digital identity, in support of their Anti-Money Laundering/Terrorist Financing (AML/TF) Recommendations. The initial review of this guidance (which we provided through our colleagues at Finance) shows a high complementarity to the PCTF, opening up possibilities that once an individual has been issued their digital identity from a PCTF-assessed jurisdiction, they will be immediately ‘KYC-ready’ (‘know your client’) dramatically reducing the friction to be onboarded onto financial services.

2. Verifiable Credentials/Decentralized Identifiers

2019 has been witness to some exciting technological developments that may have dramatic impacts on the technical ecosystem that we have in place today. The World Wide Web Consortium (w3c.org) has added to their standards track two new constructs: decentralized identifiers (DIDs), and verifiable credentials (VCs). While legacy integrations will remain, the upshot of these two new standards-based constructs (DIDs and VCs) is that they may enable an entirely new way to authenticate yourself to a digital service, and prove who you are (or just certain things, like your age). As we move into a digital realm now requiring hardened privacy controls (to ward off breaches and unwanted surveillance) these may help. Another especially exciting aspect is that VC/DIDs can afford the individual the ability to hold their credentials in their digital wallet of choice to present their proofs in a privacy-protecting manner (e.g. age-only derived from a DOB). Currently, we are not sure what the impact on the ecosystem will be with these new capabilities but there is active experimentation afoot in the jurisdictions: (BC, ON, GC), within the private sector, south of the border (DHS Silicon Valley Innovation Program ), and across the oceans (Digital Nations). Lots to learn in 2020….

Summing Up and a Request…

All the above (plus much more) is to say that we will need a clear chart of course for our working group over the next year for best effect and outcome. My personal goal is to continue to co-lead this working group and to narrow my focus onto the PCTF — to refine, align, and to develop an assessment program to onboard jurisdictions, to enable mutual recognition, and to ease onboarding friction in related sectors (such as health and financial). This will keep my hands full, so I am looking for someone to take the lead on ensuring the VC/DID ecosystem evolves for what we need for the public sector. So please consider this leading up to our weekly call, and the period following.

Finally, as a reminder, the above are my thoughts and my thoughts only and I make no representations beyond myself. By writing this, I am hoping to jumpstart our conversation for 2020 so we can arrive at goals that we can together achieve and benefit from collectively.

Sincere regards, and the best of 2020 to all.

Talk to you next week.

Tim Bouma

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Tim Bouma

Based in Ottawa. Does identity stuff. My tweets are my opinion but they can be yours too!