Digital Identity via Blockchain

Blockchain was created for digital currency. Can this technology be used by governments to provide digital identity services?

Blockchain was initially devised for digital currency, but the technology has now evolved into something greater. Blockchain’s key trait of allowing digital information to be recorded efficiently in a verifiable and permanent way has created a strong foundation for countless applications. This trait makes blockchain technology useful in solving a myriad of problems. One of these applications is for governments keen on implementing digital identity initiatives.

Identity Problems

Governments issue a lot of paper in the form of licenses, permits, identification documents and more. These documents are issued to many parties from citizens to businesses and even between governments. All parties involved need access to these documents. Although there is access to public documents to a certain extent, there is increasing demand to improve the access as everything gets digitized.

Some of the challenges that have stood in the way of improving that access for years have involved verification. It has been incredibly difficult for governments to verify that digital documents aren’t altered. Further to this, digital identification makes it hard to ensure that a person is who they say they are.

Progress in Digital ID

There is progress being made on digital identification with services such as TheOrgBook. This initiative has the sole aim of making it possible for government-issued permits and licenses to be searched. This British Columbia provincial service has created an opportunity for a host of documents to be searchable, including professional credentials of members of public bodies.

British Columbia is developing another service dubbed "Sign In Canada" which on completion is meant to use digital credentials to interact with Canada’s revenue, social development, and employment departments. The goal of "Sign In Canada" is to allow people to log into over 100 government portals and access a variety of services via a range of authentications. This single sign-on tool will make it easier for citizens to take advantage of digital services.

With such services, it is possible to access simple government services using social media login credentials. However, tougher credentials such as a digital ID will be needed to get access to sensitive personal information.

The purpose of these services is to offer people and organizations faster and easier access to government services. The services will also increase interoperability among services in the public and private sector.

A Step Further: Blockchain

The blockchain is fundamental to the scalability of these services by making the creation and transfer of data trustworthy. Searching and verifying the credentials of a company will be as easy as clicking a button which prompts a verification process using a public key for a signed document to prove its validity and source. Blockchain and public key infrastructure are the solutions that make this technology possible.

Platforms can be run by different operators; however, there are challenges such as creating a scalable verifiable credentials wallet. Implementing digital identity requires many services to be interconnected.

All in all, blockchain has the ability to save time, easy access and enhance trust when it comes to accessing government services. Ongoing government projects such as TheOrgBook and Sign In Canada highlight the future of digital identity initiatives for governments.

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