Towards a digital ID: part 3

In December I blogged an update about our work towards introducing a digital ID for Jersey. If you missed that, please read part one and part two so that you understand the context for today’s blog post.

OIX discovery project

In “Towards a Digital ID – part 2” I introduced the Open Identity Exchange, and the way that its members work together to explore potential new market opportunities in the fast-moving subject of digital identity. As indicated, the States of Jersey is now participating in a ‘discovery project’, entitled “A High-level Approach to Creating a Digital ID in Jersey (Leveraging the experience of the UK identity assurance programme)“. Our fellow participants are representatives of four companies: Innovate Identity, Verizon, Experian and Digidentity. We have met twice in London, and most recently in Jersey on 17 March to put the finishing touches to the white paper that will subsequently be released publicly on the OIX UK website.

The hypothesis for the paper is that “the UK Government identity assurance model could be adapted for Jersey with the support of certified UK IdPs and potential identity assurance hub providers, to meet the requirements of SoJ, and that this will create an attractive market opportunity in Jersey for one or more of these providers”. So far, we have not encountered any blockers to a positive conclusion.

Cross-border interoperability

OIX’s Jersey project has sparked interest beyond our shores. Steps towards international interoperability of digital ID solutions are being taken by a number of organisations including the European Union and the United Nations. We are in the privileged position of being party to high-level discussions that will help shape that international cooperation. For example we have been invited to a workshop in Amsterdam this week to take part in discussions on the international regulatory, legislative, policy, and technical interoperability standards for digital identity schemes. At that meeting, the findings of the Jersey project will be presented – this is a classic example of Jersey ‘punching above its weight’, and there is the potential for Jersey to be a testbed. Also on the agenda is a presentation on the outcome of a related project featuring using Norwegian bank IDs to open a bank account in the UK – these videos are worth watching for the clear parallels for us and our finance industry.

Digital ID in Estonia

In parallel to our exploration of the UK model we have also made progress on understanding the way that e-ID (as they call it) works in Estonia. I spent two days there last month with my colleague Stephen Hart and with two members of our new Design Authority.

A delegation led by Digital Jersey had visited Estonia in June 2014 to find out what the magic ingredients were that have made Estonia Europe’s most advanced country for the use of technology in public services.

The objective of our recent visit was much more specific: to establish which Estonian companies we would need to work with if we were to adopt their technology here in Jersey, understand how the various components plug together, and to start to form an opinion on the viability of this approach.

Over the two intensive days we held meetings at the e-Estonia showroom with the eGovernance Academy, a not-for-profit NGO that provides consultancy on the implementation of eGovernment initiatives, and with the following companies:

While most of the discussion was about their e-Identity card and their Mobile-ID system, we also had a technical overview of X-Road, digital signatures and some of the government services provided on top of the platform such as i-voting and m-parking.

We took copious notes from these meetings, and you may download a copy of the non-commercially sensitive information.

The group of us that took part now need to meet to draw some conclusions from what we saw, framed in the context of if and how the technology could be applied here in Jersey. Our gut feel is that some if not all of the components we saw could have applications here (though they are not the only options available to us).

Wider opportunities

While our group has a single focus around digital ID, there are many other components of e-Estonia which should be explored to see if they could offer us a way to fast-track a digital revolution for our Island. Examples include business registers, land register, health systems, population register, an entirely digital taxation system, technology for equipping police forces to work more efficiently, and many other innovations. There was much more to see then we could ever fit into two days, and we were conscious that our experts in those areas should meet their Estonian opposite numbers to discuss the opportunities. To that end:

  • Today, Siim Sikkut – the Digital Policy Adviser to the Estonian Government – was in Jersey for meetings with ministers, the eGov team and members of Digital Jersey.
  • We are talking with Digital Jersey about a further visit with a wider agenda, with the intention of inviting Digital Jersey corporate members with an interest to accompany us (paying their own way). Watch this space (and the Digital Jersey website) for further information as this thinking develops.

So, what was Estonia like?

It was fascinating to experience first hand what life in such a technologically advanced culture is like. Perhaps it is a glance into our own future. This will be the subject for my next installment… stay tuned!

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