Digital Identity: the opportunities and the challenges 

The upsurge of digital information has introduced overwhelming challenges and opportunities for government and business in a number of areas such as service design, operational management and marketing.

Perhaps the most interesting of these challenges and opportunities have arisen from digital identity.

Google’s Chairman, Eric Schmidt foresees identity will become the most valuable commodity for citizens in the future, existing primarily online.

There are different categories of online identity, for instance personal (e.g. myGov), social (e.g. Facebook), and professional (e.g. LinkedIn). As demonstrated below in these examples, digital identity information has evolved from something that was tightly contained and controlled with firewalls and access models, to something that is dynamic and person centric.

Increasing volumes and variety of available identity information presents additional opportunities as well as challenges. The sheer volume of available information provides compelling intelligence and efficiency opportunities, as well as the challenge of knowing what exists, how to use it and where to find it.

The ability to tap into previously unachievable volumes of human participation via the web for problem solvingBeing sure that an entity being transacted with is legitimate
The ability to generate and access large amounts of relevant data using open data standardsHaving visibility and/or control over how personal information is used
Far more intuitive and seamless human-computer interfacesVerifying the identity of an individual transacting an entity
Providing the right service to the right person

Many of the opportunities and challenges around digital identity are legacies of the physical identity age when paper-based documentation was relied on to verify identity. Physical identity was designed to enable face-to-face transactions among individuals and entities. The digital economy is changing the way that identity transactions occur – although digital identity creates control challenges, it also enables transactions in the digital world and offers improved functionality for today’s users.

Dr Vanessa Douglas-Savage
Consulting Director

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