IdentityNORTH Chair Aran Hamilton kicked off the 2019 Eastern Workshop by expressing his enthusiasm to be back in his hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia.  

“One of the reasons why we came [back] to do this is because these are big opportunities, to shape how we do things across the East Coast, and the entire country,” he said.   

These conversations, Hamilton stressed, are happening at an important time. 

“A lot of the structures we have created are not meant to allow equality,” he continued. “We have the chance to undo all of that, and bring gender equality to the conversation …we have the opportunity to bring a more diverse voice to the table when we’re designing these systems right from the ground up.”  

“We are talking about unravelling systems (at the banks, telcos and government) that are 50 years old, but a lot of these systems are reflective of the people who were there at the time, we are going back to try to fix and undo systems that were created back then,” he said. 

Now, Hamilton pointed out, we have a bit more of a different perspective, and the chance to bring that perspective to the table. 

“People here in this room are here at the early embryonic stages of digital identity,” he said. 

Azadeh Dindayal, VP of Marketing at IDENTOS

By being here early, however, we are getting a chance to shape these ideas, to spread important principles around concepts such as data minimization and privacy by design. 

The Workshop was held at Volta, Atlantic Canada’s largest innovation hub, and home to more than 50 tech companies, ranging from enterprise solutions to health care.  In addition to these companies, 300 network members (entrepreneurs and freelancers) work out of the space, which also serves as a co-working space. 

Volta was the perfect venue for IdentityNORTH, a community with innovation and collaboration at its core. The two-day workshop covered a lot of ground in the digital identity space, including modernizing identity and access management platforms, and steps taken by the Atlantic provinces to advance digital identity. Here are a few of the main takeaways. 

An ecosystem approach is necessary, as this is far more than a one person job

When it comes to digital identity, collaboration between the public and private sectors is essential. 

“No one entity, no one body within government and no one person within a government, coast-to-coast, can secure someone’s digital identity for the longer term without collaboration,” said Colleen Boldon, Director, Digital Lab and Digital ID Programs at  Service New Brunswick

“The skills of the future in this digital economy are collaboration,” she continued. “True collaboration shouldn’t happen just because you want it to happen and you think it’s a good idea, it should happen because there is a business case and a reason for doing it.” 

“Taking advantage of the big brains in Atlantic Canada:”  The region is a hotbed for innovation, with collaboration at its heart

The coastal provinces are actively working on building and strengthening digital services, and sharing lessons learned with one another. Three of the provinces shared updates on what each is working on. From pilot projects to regular phone calls, this close-knit community is making great strides in the digital identity space. 

“As we are each marching down this path together, the benefits of sharing what we each learned with one another is going to make us stronger together than if we just keep plodding along by ourselves individually,” said Krista Dewey, Director/Deputy Registrar General, Vital Statistics for the Province of Nova Scotia, in a panel on Interprovincial Collaboration and Cooperation. 

Sherry, McCourt, Colleen Boldon, Krista Dewey and Arlene Williams discuss interprovincial collaboration and cooperation

Within the Atlantic jurisdictions, Dewey noted, the Vital Statistics community is very close-knit, and communicates on a bi-weekly basis. “We are trying to expand that with our counterparts and build a broad Atlantic perspective to drive shared benefit for each of us.”  

Laura Stanford from the Government of Prince Edward Island shared her vision for digital government in her province, in a presentation titled “Our Digital Island.” The province is committed to placing people at the centre of each program, service, process and policy, in order to deliver faster services. From pilot projects to establishing various sub-committees and designing future enterprise architecture states, the province is doing great things in the digital identity space.  

A lack of trust and transparency in digital advertising is undermining the industry’s sustainability, and digital identity has a strong role to play

Advertising has not been a topic covered at previous IdentityNORTH events. Azadeh Dindayal, VP Marketing at IDENTOS, who for many years has worked in advertising and digital media, suggested this topic, given recent headlines in the news. 

After hearing about digital identity initiatives across sectors throughout the first day of the Workshop, Dindayal ended the afternoon with an easily relatable subject, one that impacts users daily: digital advertising. How can a strong digital identity benefit this sector? 

The lack of digital identity, she explained, has made room for poor ad quality, fraudulent activity as well as a supply chain that is not transparent. This non-transparency and lack of trust in the advertising is undermining its sustainability. Additionally, with an estimated $6.5 billion in fraud per year, advertising is one of the easiest industries for hackers and fraudsters to take advantage of. 

Consumers may become frustrated if they are shown too many ads, or the same ad multiple times per day. This is not because advertisers are intentionally trying to annoy us, Dindayal noted, it is because there is no singular digital identity that will allow them to better target. 

Advertisers need digital identity to provide greater transparency as well as value for their consumers and clients, yet without the appropriate oversight and standards in place, digital identities can be abused in negative ways. 

We have an opportunity to do something different and innovate for good,” she said. “We can’t develop solutions in a vacuum, we can learn and borrow from one another’s lessons.” 

When different verification components are layered together, the bar raises significantly

Identity has been broken in the digital world for users and organizations,” said Eric Swedersky, SVP Delivery and Public Sector, SecureKey. “It is hard for users to prove themselves online, and from an organizational perspective, it’s difficult to know who is at the other end of the transaction when doing a high transaction.”  

Eric Swedersky, SVP Delivery and Public Sector, SecureKey

Many traditional verification methods involve personally identifiable questions (shared secrets that one knows about themselves). In answering these questions, user data is now all out in the open, which is a fraud issue. These traditional methods we once relied on to protect this sharing of data are now increasingly under threat, opening the front door to alternatives within the cyber-realm.  

When those traditional methods are being threatened, how do we now protect? Swedersky believes that this requires real-time, dynamic authentication: what I know (passwords and shared secrets), what I have (devices, tokens and access badges) and biometrics (what I am).  

Traditionally, these authentication methods have been siloed, and used alone, one is not enough. If these components are layered together, however, the bar of security standards raises significantly.  

For instance, logging in with a strong authenticator, on a device that the telco knows, and completing a biometric check with a selfie. 

Canada and Beyond

Companies in Canada and Halifax are developing technologies based in Canada. Not only are they remaining in Canada, they are exporting these technologies, as well as a lot of key principles, such as privacy design, around the world. 

“In the identity community, there is a running joke that there is a Canadian mafia that runs identity around the world,” Aran Hamilton noted at the opening of the conference. 

We’ll take it. 

More big ideas and discussions about Canada’s digital future lie close ahead – register to attend the 2020 Western Workshop in Vancouver, on January 22 & 23. 

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