2020: a new year, the dawn of a new decade. And, the year in which the topics surrounding digital identity will go mainstream. 

This statement was echoed by several speakers at the sold-out 2020 IdentityNORTH Western Workshop in Vancouver, including Franklin Garrigues, Vice President of Digital Channels at TD.

Over the course of two days, 150 attendees from both the public and private sectors came together to discuss issues, opportunities and big questions related to digital identity today. “The strength of the IdentityNORTH community lies in the relationships, connections and learnings that occur when we all come together,” said IdentityNORTH Chair Aran Hamilton. 

“2020 is the year of digital identity in Canada,” Garrigues asserted, before listing some major milestones on the horizon. Representing a major milestone for our country, the Pan-Canadian Trust Framework (PCTF), led by the Digital ID and Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC),  will be launched this year. Open banking will soon be arriving in Canada, and Identity Networks are growing across the country (including various pilots and Proofs of Concept in British Columbia and Alberta and SecureKey’s Verified.Me).

“Digital identity practices need to go mainstream because it is fundamental and essential to any cybersecurity and cyber resilience strategy,” said Pierre Roberge, Digital ID and Commerce Innovation Expert

Humanity at the Heart of Digital Identity

We heard that digital identity is not about technology. It is about enabling people and organizations to participate in the digital economy in ways that are safe, convenient and privacy-enhancing. 

Janice Taylor

Janice Taylor, Creator/Founder of Ahava.life and Board Chair of Mazu Family Technologies, spoke about putting humanity back into digital experiences – starting with a focus on our children and our communities. 

Taylor argues that parents need to apply a five-filter rule on any of their children’s activities in the digital world: 

  1. safety verification and authentication
  2. delayed gratification
  3. asking whether these spaces reflect your family values
  4.  age appropriate rating systems on all software that collects data 
  5.  informed consent.  

She also acknowledged that these guidelines for children’s activities could be applied to our aging and most vulnerable populations. “It’s time we put some of the phones down, put humanity back into our lives, and apply this five- filter rule for the decisions we make,” Taylor said. “We have to hold a standard for our government, our private industries that want to make business in the industry, and hold big tech accountable.”

Canadian Provinces are Leading the Way

“We have to get away from this mentality that you need to be in a big city to build great tech or come up with the best ideas for our new frameworks,” Aran Hamilton pointed out.  As proof of this, Cosanna Preston-Idedia, Director, Digital Identity for the Province of Saskatchewan (who currently works as a team of one, though this will soon be expanding) presented the “made-in-Saskatchewan” approach to an easier, simpler and accessible online service for the province’s people and businesses. 

For Saskatchewan’s technology sector, there is the potential for economic growth, and the Province benefits from its partnership with Saskatchewan-based software development and solution services company Vivvo. Lucas Tétreault, Vivvo’s Chief Technology Officer, highlighted the power of collaboration and shared best practices. “It’s been an innovation partnership, in which we’re driving a lot of the technology, but [the Province] has provided the design and deals with the business side,” he said. 

Representing the Province of BC, Sophia Howse, Executive Director, Provincial Identity Management Program and Patricia Wiebe, Director of Identity Architecture and Product Development, shared a snapshot of where their province is today, and where they are headed, including updates on services such as Verify by Video. The feature, which is currently in beta, allows users to verify their identity and set up their mobile BC Services Card, without having to visit a services counter.    

Sophia Howse

With a focus on partnerships and plans to continue to evolve and innovate, the province is making great strides in the digital identity space. Possibly the most exciting talks at the Workshop were about new possible applications of technology and concepts developed over the past few years for people-focused digital identity. Peter Watkins and John Jordan outlined provenance concepts of “Trusted Origins” and “Trust over IP” to describe their activities applying existing frameworks to prove the provenance of commodities like oil, gas, or diamonds.

 “What the BC government is doing is a story I hope my grandchildren and their children will be talking about,” noted Drummond Reed, Chief Trust Officer at Evernym

Collaboration is at the Heart of the Matter

John Scott, CEO of 2Keys, and Neil Butters, AVP Digital ID and Innovation at Interac, discussed the future of public and private sector collaboration on digital ID in Canada. Each sector has something to bring to the table, and can benefit from each other’s strengths. Harmonization across the provinces is essential. “When everyone is doing their own thing, it is a challenge [for national players like Interac] if we want to to adjust those digital IDs to provide services for the private sector,” Butters said. “I think there are some challenges, but there is a lot of great work that has already started.”  

The two also emphasized the importance of moving forward with the Pan-Canadian Trust Framework (PCTF), and agreeing on other new standards. 

Beverly Dicks, Assistant Deputy Minister, Service BC Division, Ministry of Citizens’ Services at BC Public Service, also emphasized strength and positivity of the partnerships within the space. “In the private sector, there is a drive for new technology, and there are a different set of values that drive the public sector,” she said. “I don’t think the private sector can do this without government, and I assure you, we can’t do this without the private sector.”  

Looking Ahead

“As much as 2020 is the year of digital ID, it’s not static yet. Things are coalescing but they’re not fully gelled,” said Eric Swedersky, SVP Delivery and Public Sector at SecureKey. “We need to stay actively involved, continue to have those conversations about interoperability and work on our standards.”

Pierre Roberge is working to launch a new testing lab for the digital identity community. “There are a number of building blocks that are being developed as standards or norms. We can start using these to build implementations of the various layers of the digital identity ecosystem,” Roberge explained. 

“I think we will all agree that there will not be a single solution, as there is a separation of duty and responsibility,” he continued. “We want to be able to mix and match, based on the needs of the individual user or organization. 

We are only weeks into the new year, and the conversation is just getting started. Join us at our next event – the IdentityNORTH Ottawa Symposium, taking place on April 16, 2020 at Bayview Yards, in Ottawa, Canada.