Connections and innovation are at the core of IdentityNORTH, as it brings together leaders and thinkers to share and learn about the big ideas and innovations that are shaping the global digital economy and driving digital transformation.

This was the 7th Annual Summit. With more than 300 attendees, it was the biggest one yet.  

The national Summit featured more than 30 speakers, who explored some of the key themes and trends in identity and authentication today – topics such as biometrics, open banking and e-health. Highlighting strong examples of Canadian leadership, attendees were given a glimpse of what is happening in Digital ID programs, both in Canada and around the world.

As part of Canadian Digital Identity Week, the Digital Identification and Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC) also launched the Pan-Canadian Trust Framework Model 3 Draft Recommendation V1.0. A collaborative initiative led by the DIACC, the framework has been co-created in partnership with members from the public, private , and academic sectors.

“The Framework is a set of business, legal and technical-focused standards and best practices that will enable guidance for interoperability of the public and private sector,” explained DIACC President Joni Brennan. “It will unlock consent, control, choice and convenience of use for Canadians and allow them to manage their data across different ecosystems.”

Canadian Leadership

Day 1 began with a conversation between IdentityNORTH Chair Aran Hamilton and Ontario Privacy Commissioner Brian Beamish. The Commissioner discussed the dynamic changes he has seen over the years in access to information and privacy rights (he has been working with the Ontario Public Service since 1985).

“We live in a digital world, and the work that we do has had to keep up…there is a real need for us to stay on top of developments, like digital identity, AI and data integration,” he said. “There is more of a public awareness of privacy, there is a greater focus on privacy and the issue has become international.” Major advances he has witnessed over the years include those related to the delivery of government services, and how “public-private partnerships are now ubiquitous.”  

Hillary Hartley, Deputy Minister of Consumer Services and Ontario’s Chief Digital Officer, kicked off Day 2 with a talk focused on leadership in a digital age. “Digital is about the way we work, it’s about the how as much as the what,” she said. She outlined the action plan to create simpler, faster and better government, which includes pillars such as people-centered design and fostering a digital economy.

“Our team is trying to create the conditions where digital and interoperability can become a reality, and the cornerstone of this work really comes down to people, culture and leadership,” she said. “As leaders, we have to be doubling down on diversity, inclusion and belonging, we have to ensure we are building with, not for.”

The need for the public and private sectors to work together collaboratively was a key theme, and this collaboration is something that sets Canada apart from others.

“We have two perfect pieces of a puzzle between the capabilities of government and the capabilities of the private sector to come together to solve identity around people, and put control of identity sharing and verification in Canadians’ hands,” said DIACC President Joni Brennan.  

Canada and Beyond

A panel discussion posed the question: should Canada have its own biometric companies and technology for citizen verification and authentication?

“The age of biometrics is upon us, and it’s going to come down to choice. Simplicity is a big key factor, as is the user experience,” said Jeff Maynard, CEO of Biometric Signature ID. “There are other countries that are further advanced than we are in terms of adaption of biometrics, but I think we’re almost there.”

Ian Paterson, CEO of Plurilock, noted that users are not necessarily looking for biometric solutions, but they are looking to be more secure. “It is looking at what is the most appropriate technology for the situation,” he said. “Thankfully, what we are seeing now is that there is more choice so you can mix and match the right technology for the right situation.”

Various international perspectives were also shared  – as several speakers joined remotely, from South Africa, Sweden and the U.K.

Alastair Treharne an expert digital identity advisor to the U.K. Cabinet Office, whose work includes supporting the delivery of the U.K.’s national digital identity initiative. Joining the Summit from across the pond, he spoke about the U.K.’s perspective on digital identity as well as some of the work they have been doing with GOV.UK Verify.

Alastair explained that digital ID has been important for the UK’s digital transformation, economic development, safety and social welfare, adding that “digital identity is only the beginning.”

Looking Ahead

Offering a glimpse into the future, Bruno Couillard, President & CTO at Crypto4A, closed the Summit with a session titled “What’s all this quantum stuff?”  

“Quantum computers are eventually going to be affecting the way we do things in the cryptography and security space…whether we do privacy, safety or security, all of it rests on cryptography principles,” he said. “These principles, if not properly designed or engineered, will not resist quantum computers. The change is going to be very abrupt and very disruptive on many components within the ecosystem.”

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