‘Self Sovereign Identity’ (SSI) is the cutting edge evolution of the technologies we use to manage our online interactions – Logging in, authenticating who we say we are and storing our personal data on web sites.
To date this has mainly been a centralized approach, one big web site holding all the data for all the users, and as the name suggests the SSI paradigm is one of a decentralized model: The users themselves store and control their own data.
In his 2019 article published to Quartz, digital economy luminary Don Tapscott defines the next major evolutionary leap for the Internet, and how it could entirely transform business models and society.
Describing the current Internet model, where the big platforms own and control our data, as ‘digital feudalism’, Don suggests this inequity will act as the catalyst for a wholesale evolution and revolution of the Internet.
What we need is a wholesale shift in how we define and assign ownership of data assets and how we establish, manage, and protect our identities in a digital world. Change those rules, and we end up changing everything. It is a revolution to be sure. We’ve called it the blockchain revolution.
Don proposes that the technology trend of SSI is central to this revolution. When we shift from being dependent on governments to issue our unique digital identifiers, to being able to self-provision and own them directly ourselves, the foundations for the revolution will have been established. From this we’ll take control of our personal data and how it is used and monetized.
As a Platform for Blockchain-Enabled Digital Democracy
The impact of this transformation will reach far further than simply technological change; it offers the potential to entirely modernize the very foundations of our societies – How our democracies work.
Writing on Forbes Don’s son Alex Tapscott describes “Blockchain Democracy”, how the technology will not only better secure digital voting but provide the foundations for new, 21st century models for truly participative democracy.
Using the Internet, citizens became more involved, learned from one another. With the blockchain, the system can cost-effectively engage all citizens and provide equal access to public services (e.g., health care, transportation, education) and social security.
Technology is a powerful tool but it alone cannot achieve the change we need. In the spirit of the saying “The future is not something to be predicted, it’s something to be achieved,” let’s reinvent government for a new era of legitimacy and trust. It’s time to stop the tinkering.
Scotland’s dynamic opportunity is that their ambition for independence intersects powerfully with their ambition to become a world leading digital nation, indeed each accelerates the other. Pioneering Blockchain Democracy will both provide the building block tools for forming a new nation and propel them to the forefront of countries embracing digital technologies. The associated economic growth opportunities are boundless.
An especially pertinent example of such leadership is how the Catalan government are one of the first pioneers to adopt it as a foundation for a national digital infrastructure. The project, named IdentiCAT, was revealed by the President of Catalonia Quim Torra and will allow citizens to be the “owner, manager and exclusive custodian of his identity and data”.
Conclusion – Digital Economy infrastructure
This last point is key – It’s not technology just for one application, like the digital voting that can underpin online democracy, but rather it’s a whole platform for an entirely new, entirely digital nation. Voting would be just one of many functions it enables.
It will make possible everything from digital passports and birth certificates, through mobile driving licences, in short an end-to-end Digital Government. One of the leading SSI vendors is Evernym, and in their article From Stateless to Self-Sovereign they explain how this can be utilized at a global scale to provide digital citizenry capabilities for even the most difficult of scenarios.
This point is explained by Toomas Ilves, previously President of Estonia, who describes the need for this complete digital ecosystem. Presenting at Napier University last year Evernym explained how Scotland can pioneer such an ecosystem.
As SNP leaders like Martin Docherty, Doug Chapman and Angus Robertson have written for The National, Scotland’s opportunity is to emulate the Baltic nation one fifth the size of Scotland but that has achieved the staggering accomplishment of becoming the world’s leading digital nation, following their own independence.
Self Sovereign Identity technologies are the linchpin to realizing this vision for a Self Sovereign Scottish nation.
True, but it took 1) numerous elections, 2) the digitization of all public services and banking, 3) with no successful hacks throughout, before people began seriously to vote online. I do not recommend a stand-alone online voting system; you need the entire ecosystem.
— toomas hendrik ilves (@IlvesToomas) August 1, 2020