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Interoperability is the Word

Interoperability is the Word

I recently attended the 2022 Identity Week in London, a conference and exhibition facilitated by the Open Identity Exchange, bringing together bright minds in the identity sector to promote innovation, new thinking, and more effective identity solutions.

Key areas of focus included secure physical credentials, digital identity, and advanced authentication technologies, such as biometrics. There was a range of keynote speeches from representatives from the UK Cabinet Office, Home Office, Post Office, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, identity service providers, and a range of European government bodies from Germany, The Netherlands, and Estonia. There were also numerous financial services institutions all interested to hear how digital identity will change the face of their industry.

One sector which was not well represented was the employment sector, which is surprising given the UK employs almost 32 million people* and those 32 million move around a lot. That said, the Open Identity Exchange invited me along to provide a view of digital identity services, specifically through the lens of a background screening vendor, representing the employment market. My talk was specific to how smart IDs (or Digital ID Wallets) are vital for the future adoption of identity services, what we need to see as an industry, and what challenges we believe need to be overcome for adoption to be quick and seamless.

A word used in my talk was ‘interoperability’, a buzzword that’s fast becoming overused, and here is why…it’s vital for the future of digital identity adoption!

Listening to a plethora of keynote speeches, ‘interoperability’ resonated and was commonly used by most speakers more than once. In one Q&A session, a delegate challenged a guest panel with a question everyone was thinking and wants the answer to, it went along the lines of, “you can see in the exhibition hall, the technology exists to verify someone’s identity. There are lots of identity services providers all with fantastic technology, so why are we [different industries] all trying to design different legislation, regulation, rules, and criteria for the use of digital services when surely we should be working towards using just one?”

As you would expect the question was tricky to answer, however, I’ll allude to the theme of it shortly.

I uncovered numerous new schemes and initiatives during the event, which I had not heard of all with the aim of realising a dream of ‘one ID’, an ID that can be used by an individual to open a bank account, travel overseas, apply for a job or place a bet.

The challenge, of course, is a bank account will be regulated by financial services authorities, a country’s border control will have its own strict guidance to adhere to by their local Home Office equivalent, an employer or certain industry will have stipulations of what’s used to secure a job and a gambling organisation may only be required to verify age at a relatively low level of assurance.

So, the question is, how do we establish a common identity scheme, that’s usable across different countries, regulations, and industries? I don’t have the answer and the guest panel didn’t either. I’m also not confessing to believe the answer is an easy one, however, the outcome is obvious if the world wants an individual to have an interoperable ‘one ID’ that solely belongs to them, which can open doors to countries, services, and opportunities, there needs to be one common scheme, regulation and consistent technological service(s) globally.

Interoperability is a buzzword because it really matters. Even just in the competitive employment market, job seekers are applying for various jobs simultaneously and having to go through multiple experiences of evidencing their Right to Work status or their criminal history. None of these can be evidenced without a person proving they are who they say they are first. The introduction of digital for this purpose is a game-changer and saves time, money, and gives back productivity to employers, creates a smooth journey for applicants, and enhances an employer’s brand. The key now is to ensure that as digital becomes the new norm, the world doesn’t create thousands of ways to solve the same problem, creating its own complexities.

Whatever you think of replacing original document reviews with a person at a physical location, it’s difficult to argue that using digital identity services today isn’t a good idea. The governing bodies now need to step up, get around a table and agree on something that can work for all and not for one. Interoperability is the word.

Lee Hughes, VP of Sales, EMEA at First Advantage


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