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Canadian privacy expert says 2021 could be the year for digital ID projects

For a decade, federal, provincial, regional governments and the private sector have been patiently creating a framework for a digital identity that can be used in jurisdictions and perhaps internationally.

Now one of the leaders says that this could be a project of the year.

"The dream is the year of 2021, where we set the pivot for implementation," said Peter Watkins, program executive for Digital Identity at the Institute for Citizen-Centered Service. The institute is a support agency for the joint councils of CIOs and government service delivery officers.

"What we think we are looking for is a short list of a type of digital identity needed for people in the economy to need," Watkins said.

The idea is to "prime the pump" which is possible by having a digital ID to the people of Canada and encouraging the private sector by setting a "platform for innovation".

He did not say which projects are being considered other than putting them into two broad categories. One provides what they called a "verified person", such as a person being a corporate director or signing officer or proof that you are allowed to access a health care account. Another is what they called "verifiable credentials", such as digital health cards, driving licenses or corporate articles of incorporation.

Some provinces are further ahead than others. Alberta, Watkins said, already has my Alberta digital ID that allows access to certain provincial and federal services.

"We are not going to build a mountain of goods in a short span of time, but I believe we can do something useful," he said. "We will dispose of evidence of concepts and endless conversations and there are real things that we can point out and show that they work."

His prediction comes in the form of the Digital ID and Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC), a public-private sector coalition working on the Pan-Canadian Trust Framework for Digital ID, its annual survey of Canadian approaches to digital ID. be released.

Among the findings:

88 percent of the people surveyed were supportive of the concept of digital ID.
75 percent felt that the COVID epidemic made it more important to have secure, reliable and privacy-enhancing digital IDs to help Canadians secure online transactions.
80 percent of respondents believed it was very or somewhat important that Ottawa and the province move quickly to enable a safe and secure digital ID for Canadians.
This week, the House of Commons Finance Committee released a pre-budget report with a long list of recommendations related to digital ID. One of them suggested that Ottawa "implements a digital identity system that empowers Canadians to control their data that is held by the federal government."

Watkins spoke on a panel of digital ID experts from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Yukon. Many panellists sit on one of the joint councils advising government CIOs or government IT service provider leaders. They are known as jurisdictional experts of digital identity. He is also informally known as JEDI.

All panelists agreed that the epidemic intensified the need for governments to offer services online faster, but it also increased the pressure on digital IDs to move quickly as it was an important factor assuring secure access is.

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