This Innovative Technology is the future for Government, Healthcare, Banking and Education.
The number one innovative technology you should be paying attention to – whether you work in tech, innovation management, policy making or digital transformation within your organisation – is private and secure digital identity.
Our expertise in Identity Management leveraging blockchain technology has led us to develop a pilot with a major international NGO and to winning awards by The Chivas Venture, the Blockchain Innovation Conference, The Spindle Innovation and more. We recently have been funded with a seven digit figure.
This technology will impact the Government (govtech), banking, healthcare, education and even NGOs. Privacy and security of personal data is paramount and, with the possibility of heavy fines due to regulation infringements, is a concern on everyone’s mind.
This is what you must know about Self-Sovereign Identity and how your industry will be affected.
Innovative technology for Identity Management
Identity has a problem. If it’s paper-based, such as birth certificates sitting idly in a basement of a town hall, it’s subject to loss, theft of fraud.
A digital identity reduces the level of bureaucracy and increases the speed of processes within organisations by allowing for a greater interoperability between departments and other institutions. But if this digital identity is stored on a centralised server, it becomes a honeypot for hackers. Looking to breach it and leak it in order to misuse the personal details there contained.
A centralised storage of identity is then a liability to the organisation.
A personal data breach may result in huge fines due to GDPR infringement – such as the British Airways case – or simply due to customer trust loss and consequential damage to the organisation’s brand.
A technological innovation for privacy and security
We have covered extensively on this guide about blockchain and identity management how a modern digital identity management system can maintain the security and privacy of its users by decentralising the data storage and by minimising the quantity of personal data stored.
This is done through the use of cryptography (i.e. Zero Knowledge Proofs) and blockchain technology. By implementing the innovative technology of Self-Sovereign Identity, users own their personal data and are able to access services from an organisation, proving who they are and ensuring trust without the need to disclose any personal details. This greatly reduces the amount of data an organisation stores and thus reduces the possibility of Personal Data Regulations infringement.
An important note before we start: Self-Sovereign Identity leverages blockchain technology. It’s important to have in mind that no personal data – no ids, medical records, academic credentials, etc – are put on a blockchain. A blockchain is immutable and though extremely hard to hack or breach now, no one knows what may happen in the future. Putting personal data on the blockchain also does not comply with any regulations (i.e. GDPR; right to be forgotten). What goes on the blockchain are the means – signatures, pointers, references – that allow for the verification of authenticity of the data that a user holds. You can read more here about what exactly goes on the blockchain.
Govtech: Government Technology
The government of British Columbia, Canada, is using an open-source blockchain framework, Hyperledger Indy, to streamline their services and cut red tape.
Canadian companies claim they waste more than 6 billion € every year on unnecessary bureaucracy. This governmental project – The Verifiable Organizations Network – believes decentralized identities and trusted credentials are the solution.
Innovation in Government Bureaucracy
Each Canadian business owner has to use three different tax numbers and navigate three different levels of governmental bureaucracy: local, provincial and federal.
Using this innovative technology, one trusted organisation within the value chain – such as the provincial government – can issue a digital Verifiable Credential to the business owner and the other organisations – such as the federal government or a financial institution – can verify that credential and trust the attestation made by the first organisation.
According to Product Lead John Jordan, their team wanted to show that this innovative technology can even be applied to more than just identity.
Use cases such as “professional associations that register members like doctors, nurses, or engineers; standards groups that certify food as organic or kosher; or businesses that need to prove their facilities have been inspected”. It can be used “to support private and secure P2P connections where verifiable credentials can be used to build trusted relationships. This can help streamline any process that involves trust.”
The importance of identity is paramount in the healthcare industry. According to a World Bank report on The Role of Digital Identification for Healthcare:
“Providers need to know a patient’s identity to access relevant medical and treatment histories and ensure that they are giving consistent and appropriate care.
Patients also need documentation to prove enrollment in insurance programs or other safety nets that cover medical expenses. (…)
Health insurers need to be able to identify patients to ensure that those for whom claims are submitted are actually insured and to facilitate the adjudication of claims based on the patient’s history.
A secure, inclusive, and responsible method of uniquely identifying and authenticating healthcare users over time and across facilities is central to each of these needs and the goal of achieving universal health care”.
Although this World Bank report focuses on the use of unique identifiers – that are a matter of concern privacy wise due to the possibility of correlation – the reasons they present for the importance of identification in healthcare we deem as valid.
Efficient identification becomes jeopardized in countries where identity and information systems are weak. Either because their records are paper based or because their digital identity management system do not allow for interoperability with other systems. Impeding record or data transferring between organisations. Which ultimately leads to less efficient health services.
Private and secure channels for data transfer, that provide trust between health facilities, patients, insurers and government is thus of absolute importante. One that a Self-Sovereign Digital Identity could provide.
An Innovation in Healthcare
By using a common identity metasystem, institutions within the healthcare industry could easily and seamlessly verify digital Verifiable Credentials issued by other organisations (and even issue some themselves). A healthcare facility could trust the authenticity of a patient credential without even having to check the actual data there contained.
These privacy maintaining channels would be assured through cryptography and Zero-Knowledge Proofs. The verifying organisation would just have to check the blockchain to verify the authenticity of the signature of the attesting organisation or physician. If the signature matches the one in the patient’s credential, it’s authentic.
And you may ask, “But how do we know whether to trust the physician?”.
Phil Windley, Sovrin’s Chairman, answers this question: “Professionals can also create proofs from verifiable claims written about them to show that they have specific qualifications, certifications, or work at specific institutions. These claims are, in turn, verifiable in the same manner, creating a chain of trust.”
Non-interoperable identity systems are costly for the institutions and troublesome and stressful for the users. When patients arrive at the new facility, the need for duplicated registrations and paperwork increases bureaucracy for one side and frustrates patients in need of care.
“By allowing for secure and accurate identification and authentication of patients and enabling information exchange, they can increase the efficiency of patient management, improve the quality of treatment, reduce administrative burdens for patients, facilitate access to insurance, reduce fraud, and improve data collection.” (World Bank Report)
The digitization of healthcare identity systems is not enough though. Institutions must make sure their digital records are private and secure. Centralised healthcare records pose a major privacy risk for both patient and organisation.
The innovative technology of Self-Sovereign Identity would provide the decentralization, security, privacy and interoperability for a more efficient healthcare system.
An Innovative idea for birth registrations
1.2 billion people around the world do not have an identity. Some of them because they never had it in the first place. Having no identity has grave consequences for these peoples’ lives as they are not able to access healthcare, education or banking services.
An interoperable identity system would be the innovative technology that allows hospitals, midwives or birth facilities to easily communicate a birth to the government who can instantly issue a digital birth certificate.
If you’ve had the experience of moving to another country you’ll know how difficult it is to prove your academic certifications. How do you prove to your prospective new employer (or host country’s government) that you are a doctor or an engineer? How can they trust the authenticity of the paper or pdf certificate issued by your University? They’ve never seen that certificate before. You could have made it up on Canva and printed. Will the new employer just take your word that you have a masters?
Then starts the grinding process of having one organisation talk to another to attest that you are who you say you are and have the skills you say you have.
Self-Sovereign Identity, an innovative technology that acts as a carrier of trust, can fix this.
An academic institution could issue a certificate (a Verifiable Credential) to a graduate using Self-Sovereign Identity principles. The graduate would own this credential on his devices and the verifying institution would only have to check the cryptographic signature on both the academic certificate and match it with the one on the blockchain.
This would not only allow for a person to prove their academic certifications but also to avoid fraud.
Diploma and Academic Fraud
According to a report by the Association of International Educators (link):
“George Gollin, a University of Illinois physics professor who has investigated diploma mill frauds such as that of St. Regis, says that based on his research, he estimates that 200,000 academic degrees are sold by illegal degree providers in the United States each year.”
In 2016, the Kenyan government started an initiative to use blockchain to prevent exam results fraud.
For companies or governments, hiring professionals with fake academic credentials can eventually lead to brand damage and a public relations storm.
Innovations in Education
Self-Sovereign Identity could also play a role besides the graduate-hiring organisation relationship. It could help within the education institutions themselves. Making private and secure student records. This innovative technology would allow for students to privately prove claims about themselves (like having paid tuition of having completed a course or credit that is a prerequisite for another course).
An interoperable identity metasystem would also allow an easier transfer of students – and their data – between education institutions (even those in different countries).
Mastercard and Microsoft believe a Digital Identity can play a pivotal innovation role in the banking industry.
They think this innovative technology would improve the speed and efficiency of onboarding and identification processes for opening bank accounts, requesting a loan or establishing a payment services account. Create a more personalized and efficient shopping experience online and in stores or simplify “interactions with government agencies and services – such as filing taxes, applying for passports or securing support payments (e.g., Social Security)”.
All this done through “a single, reusable digital identity [that] can help people interact with a merchant, bank, government agency and countless other digital service providers with greater integrity, lower cost and with less friction”.
Of course this Digital Identity would need to be private and secure. That’s where self-sovereignty comes into play. A centralised storage of digital identity would just become a honeypot for hackers wanting to misuse people’s financial and personal details.
Innovations in Banking
Barclays and Evernym are exploring how a decentralized, private and secure digital identity could benefit banking.
One thing this innovative technology would do is abolish usernames and passwords. “Everyone has multiple usernames and passwords – and some people use the same password for everything. Hackers love that. And it’s not just your email account they can take – once they’ve got your passwords, they can steal your whole identity,” says Jamie Smith, Strategic Engagement Director at Evernym
According to Barclays, “By 2022 it’s predicted that 40% of interactions between businesses and their customers will be affected by a form of digital ID known as self-sovereign identity (SSI).”
With Verifiable Credentials, everyone can prove claims about themselves without the need for login details such as usernames and passwords that jeopardize their data’s security and privacy.
Through the use of blockchain and cryptography (Zero-Knowledge Proofs) customers could prove claims about themselves without the actual need to disclose the personal information contained in the credentials.
Since 2016, Rabobank, one of The Netherlands’ biggest banks has been researching into Self-Sovereign Identities. Their use cases, which they believe can bring “added value for the business lines, our customers and employees” are:
- – KYC: With their extensive KYC and due diligence processes, Rabobank believes they could provide “directly verifiable data” that the customer could provide to third parties.
- – Mortgage: Mortgage flows require a lot of time and documents from several different sources. Most of those documents are not verifiable. Self-Sovereign Identity would allow for the verification of that data.
- – HR and onboarding of employees: Rabobank wants their employees to own their own data. Reusing “certificates or assessments they achieved or did at Rabobank everywhere else. Therefore we do projects in order to save certificates, diplomas, trainings and employment credentials”. They believe this innovative technology would “drastically improve onboarding times”.
GDPR implemented the right to data portability. Previously, companies could “lock-in” customers by shutting their access to their personal data. Now, each user has the right to get a copy of the data each company possesses of him.
Self-Sovereign Identities would facilitate this transfer of data and its consequent sharing with other parties. An innovative technology that gives the user the freedom to share what he wants with whomever he wants.
Innovation in Identity and Access Management
Identity and Access Management Softwares (IAM) are used by companies to authenticate, authorize, manage and create a central repository of their users/employees.
Whenever a new employee is onboarded into a company, a whole new set of accounts has to be created. A lot of different accounts. From a simple email account to databases, servers, AWS or even Slack.
Once this employee leaves, all these accounts have to be revoked as they were created: manually one by one. One instance of a not properly revoked credential can open the door for vulnerability. As a malicious former employee can access the company’s network and steal data.
Through the use of Self-Sovereign Identity the user would be onboarded on all the different services using his own credential or one created by the company. One that the employee would store on his identity wallet. On the moment of revocation, only one credential would have to be revoked to cut access to all of the accounts.
Self-Sovereign Identity could also be an innovative technology for the Identity and Access Management space by improving the audit trail. For compliance reasons, these enterprise softwares register a log of user access for fraud prevention. Though the method through which that log is created – sometimes a text file – is of concern as privileged users could modify or delete logs for nefarious reasons. Blockchain, due to its immutable nature, could be a prime use case for access log security.
More than 1.2 billion people do not have an identity. Either because they never had it in the first place or because they lost it due to wars or natural catastrophes.
NGOs have an identity problem at hand. Duplication of registration due to paper-based identity systems is a bureaucratic burden that is costing them too much time and money.
A person affected, who is in need of humanitarian aid, has first to undergo a process of registration with an NGO before being able to access aid. In humanitarian aid, time is lives. Different humanitarian aid programs require different registrations with different NGOs. Humanitarian aid paper-based vouchers are prone to loss and fraud.
Innovation for NGOs
Verifiable Credentials and a blockchain based identity management system would allow one NGO to issue a digital credential (i.e. registration record) that other NGOs would be able to verify and accept because they trust the NGO that issued the credential.
This innovative technology would not only reduce bureaucracy by reducing duplication of registrations, it would also allow for a faster and more efficient expedition of aid (with tamper proof digital aid vouchers).
Another problem that plagues people who do not have an identity is the inability to access services such as healthcare, education, banking or government in their host country. If these institutions trust the NGO, thus trusting the Credentials issued by it, it could allow a person to access services to a certain degree.
Self-Sovereign Identity is a major innovative technology to all industries that require identity verification, authentication, proofs of identity, transfer of personal data and trust in the previously mentioned processes.
Self-Sovereign Identity eliminates the middle-man as a carrier of trust. Thus reducing its power over personal data. Improving the relationship between user and organisation. Increasing privacy and offering users the freedom to consent on how they share their data and with whom.
If you’re wondering how this innovative technology could work for you organisation, you can read more about Tykn’s Self-Sovereign Identity Management System or how exactly Identity Management can leverage blockchain technology.
The graphics contained in this blogpost were designed by Freepik.