Digital Nation

Building the Scottish Credential Ecosystem with Self-Sovereign Identity

‘Self Sovereign Identity’ will provide the keystone foundation for a trusted infrastructure for Scotland’s digital economy.

In the previous blog we outline the case for Scotland to adopt a decentralized data sharing approach to digital healthcare, adopting the ‘MyData’ practices which define that users themselves own and control access to their own personal records.

Vendors like digi.me offer tools and apps to implement this approach, and as Antti Kettunen describes on the Tieto site, a key companion technology is ‘Self-Sovereign Identity’.

With self-sovereign identity, however, we are getting closer to realizing the MyData vision. SSI is a distributed approach to MyData, where individuals (identity holders) are in the driver’s seat with respect to their own data. In the SSI model, the identity holder can retrieve information from data issuers as verifiable credentials, which can then be shared with the recipient (verifier).

Adopting SSI and the associated interconnecting ecosystems would provide the enabling foundation for the defined Personal Data Model for Digital Healthcare in Scotland.

SSI Ecosystems

This could be achieved through implementing the Sovrin Network in Scotland.

Via his blog tech industry luminary Phil Windley describes their launch, the world’s first self-sovereign identity (SSI) network, intended to provide this governance for organizations deploying SSI technologies. Will Abramson provides this introductory overview to SSI.

In addition to the global identity governance networks like Sovrin, SSI pioneers are also developing localized ecosystem collaborations, the key dynamic that Scotland can replicate. In this video of a presentation at Napier University Andy Tobin of Evernym proposes Scotland should develop their own ‘credential ecosystem’, emulating what has been pioneered in Alberta, Canada – The Alberta Credential Ecosystem.

In Alberta the state owned bank ATB Financial is building ‘ACE’, a local collaboration of organizations beginning to adopt SSI and achieve integrated services through sharing SSI credentials.

Foundation for Next Generation Digital Government

Using examples of physical documents like drivers licences, Andy explains how these are identity credentials that are used to prove who we are to facilitate business processes, such as opening a new bank account, and the essence of Digital Identity is the digitization of these documents and these proofing functions, so that their equivalent purpose can be replicated online.

What this highlights is that both global and local collaboration is key. Where global ecosystems like Sovrin enable the core inter-operation, there is still a need for localized collaborations to operationalize these capabilities, even in the simple terms of building partner relationships through meet ups and workshops. From these comes the realization of how and where to apply the technology to best deliver mutually beneficial business results.

Technology alone won’t achieve the overall goal – Governance is also needed to regulate how organizations will collaborate and inter-operate with one another, such as Identity Providers and Banks, to facilitate these exchanges so the overall system is one of an ecosystem. Their interoperation is key to enabling a frictionless online experience.

Andy explains the key dynamic of ‘Self-Sovereign Identity’ is that it is decentralized versus centralized, achieved through ‘DID’ open standards. Rather than a single, central database of Identity information users themselves hold, manage and present their own digital credentials, via digital wallets such as Evernym’s Connect.me.

This mirrors the physical world, where users carry their credential documents like their drivers licence in their wallet.

Furthermore programs like Alberta’s then localize this collaboration, providing a community vehicle for participants to zero in on the specific use cases they want to digitally enable through SSI, such as how local Telecomms, Government, Healthcare and Insurance organizations might interoperate to facilitate shared business processes.

Andy proposes an equivalent Scottish program to repeat this same pioneering innovation and position Scotland at the forefront of the Digital Identity revolution.

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