Digital Identity Around the World: Why Some Countries are Embracing Self Sovereign Identity Quicker by@nrprgroup
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Digital Identity Around the World: Why Some Countries are Embracing Self Sovereign Identity Quicker

by Liquid AvatarSeptember 3rd, 2021
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When you look at digital identity, what we like to call self-sovereign identity (SSI), and the global adoption of this novel concept, there are several questions that must be answered and elements that have to be taken into consideration.

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There is a movement afoot for individuals to take control of their identity and associated data. However, when you look at digital identity, what we like to call self-sovereign identity (SSI), and the global adoption of this novel concept, several questions must be answered along with elements that have to be considered.

Implementing Self-Sovereign Identity

Some countries have been quicker to embrace SSI than others for myriad reasons. From a single nation standpoint, does the political environment of all levels of government support it? Does the regulatory environment support it? Is there infrastructure in place? Setting standards and governance? Closed-loop systems versus decentralization? Have they thought through the issuance, holder, and verification ecosystem? What about inclusion and interoperability?

Although administrations and regimes change, a long-standing group of seasoned professionals usually remain in government over time. These folks are responsible for adhering to long-term goals regardless of that country’s elected or appointed leaders. So the question arises: do these civil administrators have a plan for implementing SSI?

Not every country has adopted regulated standards for privacy and identity or has acknowledged the fact that users will own or maintain their own identity, but more are coming on board. For example, new privacy measures include the General Data Protection Regulation in the EU, the California Consumer Privacy Act in the United States, the Data Privacy Act of 2012 in the Philippines, and South Korea’s Personal Information Protection Act, and others, while countries like Canada are updating privacy policies at the provincial and federal levels.


After considering the political and regulatory landscape, you have to ask, “where's the infrastructure?” Infrastructure doesn't just mean technology; it also includes the rules and governance. Do the national, regional, and/or local governments and regulators have the ability to begin issuing digital credentials? When it comes to the existing technology, several factors must be considered: age, performance, scalability, adoption, security, and performance. Can that technology be used and upgraded, or do you have to start from scratch and build from the ground up?

Standards Need to be Set

The next question is: what are the standards? As new standards emerge, they must address core issues of governance and interoperability. For example, if you think about the early days of ATMs, listed on the back of your bank card were the networks in which your card would work. Therefore, it would be useless if you tried to use your card at an ATM that wasn’t in one of those networks. Eventually, standards, governance, and technologies were implemented to solve the interoperability hurdle, and all bank cards, regardless of the issuer, became universally accepted at ATMs and point of sale systems.

SSI adoption is already starting to play out internationally, and we see the blueprints for its interoperable future, boosted by the push for widespread COVID-19 testing and vaccination passports. There will be numerous networks that are supported across various systems—similar to how MasterCard, Visa, or American Express, et al. can be used anywhere in the world; ergo, SSI has the potential for that level of universal adoption. That's the beauty of an integrated network. Let's use Visa for a moment. Visa is one brand, one network. How many banks issue Visa cards? There are thousands of different issuers of Visa cards, but the network itself accepts all those cards. That’s the key to large-scale adoption. What we and others in this space are trying to do is not to reinvent the wheel, but to use tried and true methods, proven from previous successes of interoperability, and spearhead those solutions towards SSI.

Inclusion is a Barrier

Inclusion is another issue. What happens if you don't have a smartphone? Maybe it’s an economic barrier for the individual or a generational gap for someone who never adapted to smartphone technology. How do you deal with inclusion in communities where people either refuse to adopt technology or don't have the means or availability?

Research published by The McKinsey Global Institute in 2019 showed that, based on estimates from the World Bank’s ID4D database, nearly one billion people globally lack any form of legally recognized identification, while an additional 3.4 billion people have some legally recognized identification with limited ability for digital use. The remaining 3.2 billion that have a legally recognized identity and participate in the digital economy cannot necessarily use that ID effectively and efficiently online.

The article goes on to say, “Digital ID holds the promise of enabling economic value creation for each of these three groups by fostering increased inclusion, which provides greater access to goods and services; by increasing formalization, which helps reduce fraud, protects rights, and increases transparency; and by promoting digitization, which drives efficiencies and ease of use.”

Based on this data alone, inclusion is one of the bigger issues that will have to be addressed as we discuss the global adoption of SSI. But acknowledging the need for digital identity is the first step.


Provided that we resolve governance, regulations, infrastructure, standards, and inclusion issues, continuous education will be needed for the public. If governments want SSI to work, they're going to have to educate the public, which will have to be done in conjunction with the media. People will have to learn and understand the “identity lifecycle” — registration, issuance, identity authentication, authorization, and identity management, along with everything involved to prepare an individual to travel through that lifecycle.

Each government moves at its own pace for as many reasons as there are countries, and digital identity/SSI will only become a reality once governments voice their support, regulations, and standards are adopted, infrastructure is created or upgraded, and interoperability, inclusion, and education are all addressed. Some countries are positioned to move faster than others, as is always the case. Still, the ones that set the standard must lead by example and encourage their fellow nations to adopt SSI to ensure equitable access within the digital transformation.

Written By David Lucatch, CEO - Liquid Avatar Technologies Inc.