It was a drizzly day in downtown Vancouver, but inside the TELUS Garden building, the conversations around digital identity were heating up.

On January 22 & 23, more than 130 attendees gathered at the 2019 IdentityNORTH Western Workshop. Over the two day conference, decreasing friction between citizens and technology and ensuring digital identities are inclusive of marginalized people emerged as key themes.

British Columbia and beyond

The honourable Jinny Sims, Minister of Citizens’ Services for the Province of British Columbia, opened the workshop by acknowledging the unceded territory of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam First Nations.

The minister then proceeded to announce the launch of OrgBook BC, which will use blockchain technology to streamline and modernize government services for British Columbians. The province, she noted, is the first government to create a service like this, using blockchain.

“We’re working with other provinces to imagine how Canadians might one day access services without worrying about provincial boundaries, without worrying about carrying pieces of paper around,” she said.

“People should be able to move throughout Canada knowing they can access services from anywhere, when they’re needed.”

In a session about B.C.’s first online identity management program, Sophia Howse of Service BC and Trevor Hurst, from the BC Ministry of Advanced Education Skills and Training, discussed how university students applying for loans have had their application and wait time cut down by half since the program’s launch in April.

Attendees witnessed demonstrations of various innovative approaches. The Canadian Revenue Agency and SecureKey collaborated to demonstrate their proof of concept using blockchain to simplify filing your taxes and eliminating snail-mail security codes using verified.me.

The province of Saskatchewan demonstrated CitizenOne, an online platform for citizens to access, manage and use their government and health services.

In her backgrounder on Canada’s Digital Trust Framework, DIACC President Joni Brennan framed digital economy in terms of economic opportunity, estimating between $15 to $44 billion in potential gains for the country.

Taking on the perhaps undesirable task of creating a unifying healthcare portal for Canadians was Brad Keates, Group Director Innovation and Technology at Canada Health Infoway. Challenges include building off of existing infrastructure to create a system that both links various jurisdictions while respecting varying privacy and access laws, said Keates.

In British Columbia, the BC Services Card is being used to advance health services, working to build a personalized health identity capable of following patients throughout the province while still respecting their privacy, explained the Ministry of Health’s Paul Shrimpton.

The province is also using the BC Services Card to improve education, announced the Ministry of Education’s Sally Barton. Linking the card with a student’s personal Personal Education Number (PEN) will mean simplification across the entire student’s education, from school enrolment for preschoolers to young adults requesting their transcripts for university application.

Fighting fraud

During a panel on trends in enterprise data protection, Ajay Sood, Vice President and Country Manager at Symantec Canada, put data protection in the terms of an infinite game, where the only goal was to keep playing. “When you look at this infinite game that is cyber security, it’s a series of evolutions that have occurred,” he said. “There has been an evolution in the types of attacks… it used to be about attacks on infrastructure, routers and firewalls, and now we’re at the point where you’re attacking the individual.”

The panel also discussed the importance of having company executives and board members who understood the importance of cyber security, and how even the companies who are laziest with their security measures should bulk up on email protectors.

Building on the topic of cyber security, the next panel discussed how SMS was never designed to send secure information, and swapped ideas on how to tackle SIM-Card-swap frauds.

“Text messaging was never designed to deliver security codes, it was designed to allow us to communicate with each other,” said Robert Blumenthal, Chief Identity Officer at EnStream.

“The phone is probably the most pervasive connected security device you can have, if used properly. The app ecosystem is generally quite secure, “ he added.

“Assuming we do the same panel a year from now, what is on your wishlist for the next year?” asked IdentityNORTH Chair Aran Hamilton, who moderated the panel.

“It would be great if we could provide the same kind of convenience that SMS passwords provide today, with improved security,”  said Andrew Johnston, Principal Technology Architect at TELUS. “We’ve also been looking at it as an issue of customer education and helping people figure out how to get the most out of the internet and not fall into those dark corners.”

The unconference portion of the event on Day 2 was an opportunity for attendees to come together and share their ideas. Open banking, identity for the disenfranchised and exploring everyday identity problems for everyday Canadians were some of the topics discussed.

The conversation is just getting started, and we are excited to see what comes next.

For more details on the IdentityNORTH 2019 Western Workshop sessions, join our community mailing list to view the full Conference Report, produced with the support and sponsorship of 2Keys.

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