- Joni Brennan President of the Digital ID & Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC)
- Greg Wolfond CEO & Chairman, SecureKey
- Franklin Garrigues VP Digital Channels, TD Bank
- Digital identity measures have to take into account consumer convenience and comfort in order to promote consumer empowerment.
- Collaboration within Canada between stakeholders is still a challenge, and so government must act to facilitate the sharing of knowledge.
- Bringing the public and private sector together to tackle the interoperability of digital security is a necessity in order to ensure uniform adoption of measures.
- Canada must act fast to adopt international standards so that there are set guidelines businesses and governments can follow.
- With increased technological innovation, it will become easier to defraud individuals and organizations with falsified identities if there are no proper verification procedures.
Canada has to act fast to implement digital identity verification measures that conform to international standards and that are interoperable. The digital space is changing rapidly, especially in a world where social distancing and online interactions are now the norm. In order to act effectively, Canada must capitalize on its existing collaborations and ensure there is sustained investment in organizations working on digital security. An improved system will bring tangible benefits to the economy as well as to the everyday consumer.
DEFINING DIGITAL ID AND ITS IMPORTANCE
TheFutureEconomy.ca: We are talking about digital identification (ID) today, a very important topic. What is digital ID and document verification, and why is it important for industry, governments, and citizens?
Joni Brennan: I am Joni Brennan, the President of the Digital Identification and Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC). I have had the pleasure of working in this field for about 20 years now. Digital identity is a collection of assertions about you, and that is a simple way to think about it. I am Canadian; I live in British Columbia (BC); I am a woman—think of all of these attestations and attributes about who you are. Digital identity is the digital representation of these things and it is the way that you present them to perform different kinds of transactions—maybe with your bank, government, telecommunications provider, or your child’s school, for example. It is the digital representation of who you are.
Franklin Garrigues: The only thing I would add is that digital ID is a foundation of ecommerce, the internet, and how we live on the internet. It is a foundation that is being built and that is why we are all here and passionate about digital identity.
Greg Wolfond: The only thing I would add is this is a cyber world we live in and there are bad folks out there trying to get names and IDs, breaching data to try and become other people. It is not even just digital, but also general ID, including people showing up to go for a test drive. They are not the person they say they are, and they can disappear with the car. Another example is someone trying to get in and create a bank account in your name.
How does a person prove that he or she is the person they are, whether it is in-person, on the phone, or online? That is the challenge we have before us and that is what we are all trying to solve.
TheFutureEconomy.ca: It is hard to have any conversation today about any topic without relating it to COVID-19 and the pandemic that we find ourselves in around the world. Does this pandemic have any bearing on digital ID?
Franklin Garrigues: People have said that COVID-19 has driven digital adoption as much as we have seen in years, and a few technology firms have mentioned that we are seeing a great acceleration. It is true for many businesses that digital adoption has really accelerated. In doing so, COVID-19 has highlighted some of the foundations of ecommerce and our digital world that we are missing. We have seen a few examples in government and in the private sector where the act of authenticating and proving who we are has been lacking. I can share an example. At TD Bank (TD) we sometimes rely on customers to wait for their branch to authenticate them, wherein they have to identify themselves when they open an account. Even when they go online, in some cases we still ask customers to come in person. That was appropriate in the pre-COVID-19 world, but it is not okay anymore. We need to be 100% online, including the identity step, and so this a very tangible, practical example we are seeing and I know there has been many such issues across our industry and governments.
TheFutureEconomy.ca: Joni, it seems like digital ID would be particularly important in the health sector, especially now. First of all, am I right and does it have bearings on other sectors more than others?
Joni Brennan: Yes, digital ID is something that I would call horizontal. That is similar to what has been said about digital identity being a foundation. What that means is that the ability to authenticate and prove who you are, or for a business or organization to prove who they are is at the foundation of changing information, exchanging value, and exchanging money for transactions, which means this touches every space.
With regard to healthcare and the pandemic, it has created much more of an urgency for digital ID. Franklin talked about how that has moved the space forward. We have often talked about digital ID pre-COVID-19 in terms of the convenience that it will bring to people, businesses, and governments. Today, we are talking about making sure that food can be on the table and that people can continue to work in a remote workforce. That has driven digital identity from not only being a convenience to a matter of national, social, and economic security.
TheFutureEconomy.ca: Greg, tell us a little bit about the digital ID ecosystem in Canada. You lead one of the companies that is at the forefront of it – what do your surroundings look like?
Greg Wolfond: We have been at this for a while and Canada has done a great job early on of realizing there is a benefit in public-private partnerships such as a log-in service where you can use your bank to log-in to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or Service Canada. During COVID-19, over 3 million new people signed up for government benefits and they were able to access it right away. They can log-in with their bank, so this is a great win-win kind of partnership. There are hundreds of millions of log-ins that people do a year where they do not have to remember another uppercase, lowercase, number, or letter password – they can log-in with their strong, trusted financial institution and go from there.
Canada has a great ecosystem because Canada has all kinds of people playing in the space. The work that British Columbia is doing on verifiable credentials or the work that other companies are doing to add other attributes, at the end of the day, is what makes an ecosystem work because there are a multitude of ways for you to be able to prove you are or who you say you are. I can show up with proof from TD, where TD says, “Yes, this is Greg Wolfond – he logged in right now” and I can get the Telco to say, “Yes, that person has Greg’s phone, and we were able to ping the phone and the phone is here.” Lastly, if I can get government ID I can scan a password or a driver’s license and be able to prove I have it. These are what I know, what I have, and what I am—they are the factors of security and at the end of the day, in an increasingly cyber world, we need more of these to come together.
What I love about Canada is: under an umbrella, particularly what Joni is doing at DIACC, all of these people are providing different attributes and different parts of that mosaic that help you prove your identity, coming together to create a standard that says I should be able to prove I have my driver’s license. However, it is possible someone could fake that with an image. But what if I can also prove I can log into my bank with all of the checks and balances a bank does? What if I can prove my identity with my phone? The combination of these is what is going to make Canadians safe and working together is how we lead the world in some of the things that we are trying to do.
TheFutureEconomy.ca: Most Canadians will at least be familiar or have heard about the COVID Alert app. Is there any relationship between digital ID and that app and do you think that adoption of that app can also help people to familiarize themselves with digital ID?
Greg Wolfond: The app is different. Canada did a good job of keeping privacy within the app so many people are downloading the app. It is able to check who is around you but it is not tracking you. It will notify you if you have been near someone who has COVID. Canada really took privacy to heart when they built that app and I think people came together to do it well.
“What I love about Canada is you are seeing telcos, banks, and government say we have to do this and bring assets to bear to make this work.”Greg Wolfond
Canada, generally, with things like COVID-19 and digital ID, has this recognition that this is a problem to be solved for citizens, whether it is getting them benefits because of the pandemic, helping them prove who they are to get their health records, or open a bank account so that they are aware that the bad folks are out there. There was a recent breach with one of the government agencies where they were collecting passwords, as well as a breach of some credit agencies and financial institutions. The bad people are not going away, so how do we combine strengths to be able to combat this and make the Canadian economy more resilient? As the world gets more digital, we can become more resilient because we can open faster, get our healthcare and speak to a doctor faster, get a loan, mortgage, or open a new bank account. All those are things we want to do but now we are uncomfortable. I do not want to hand my driver’s license to someone and have them hand it back while I am worried about touching and contact.
That urgency is lit up, but what I love about Canada is you are seeing telcos, banks, and government say we have to do this and bring assets to bear to make this work. There is a dialogue that is happening and there is a willingness to say let us make this work for our citizens, and I love that about Canada.
CANADA’S POSITION ON DIGITAL ID
TheFutureEconomy.ca: I would like to ask you each to name what you think is Canada’s main strength and weakness in the digital ID and cybersecurity space.
Joni Brennan: I would say Canada’s main strength in terms of addressing the opportunities and challenges related to digital identity would be the level and spirit of our collaboration. The size and diversity of our country, with a principle and value system based on cooperation is at the root of Canada’s existence as a confederation. We have that as part of our DNA and that is a strength. That is why you see the financial sector strongly participating, as well as the telecommunications sector. You do not see that in every other part of the world.
“Your original birth record, your existence itself, is rooted out of the province that you were born in. Unless you are an immigrant to Canada as I am, your root is not with the federal government.”Joni Brennan
I would also say that our collaboration is one of our weaknesses at the same time. We need to be able to work across Canada collaboratively to solve these challenges. For example, legal identity is largely rooted within the provinces and so your original birth record, your existence itself, is rooted out of the province that you were born in. Unless you are an immigrant to Canada as I am, your root is not with the federal government. Many people are rooted in the provinces and not with the federal government, so the federal government is a consumer of identity from other places around Canada. In this sense, we do need to supercharge and bring efficiency to the collaboration that we have, helping the federal government play its important role, as well as the provinces, banks, institutions, and telcos to play their roles. We do have this village of collaboration, so that is something that is really helping us move forward. Not only that, with this level of diversity, we have a good opportunity of actually exporting the way that we go forward to other places around the world.
Franklin Garrigues: Joni said it very well: both our strength and weakness is collaboration. I have been impressed time and again by the level of skills and talent that Canada has on identity. It dawned on me, when talking to other countries, how much more advanced Canada is on the topic and how advanced the thinking is. I also realized that a lot of our businesses or initiatives on identity shows that a lot of Canadians are leading these across the world. It is actually quite impressive and Canada is a very special place with a lot of talent, expertise, and experience on identity. It is logical that we would be experts on this topic and it shows. I am very proud of that. That is a key strength that Canada has.
“It dawned on me, when talking to other countries, how much more advanced Canada is on digital ID and how advanced the thinking is.”Franklin Garrigues
The challenge we face is speed and time. The world of identity is being built as we speak and it will be built. The chance is ours to build it the way we are talking about which includes collaboration and working together among the private sector, large businesses, and small businesses. We have the opportunity to build it and if we do not, it will be built for us by others. It will be not be as well-adapted to our country as it could be. That is the challenge we are facing and I do believe people are quite aware of it and are conscious that we have to move fast. But, it is hard to be collaborative and move fast at the same time.
Greg Wolfond: I totally agree with everything they are saying. One more strength that we have is this privacy bent that Canada has, this notion of consenting to share data from TD, Rogers, my driver’s license, or the government for this purpose, and stating that the information is not being shared without consent and that there is no one watching your information. This privacy by design is built-in, so everyone is able to realize that this is the core of identity verification.
“What the real security folks realize is it is the combination of assets that makes verification strong.”Greg Wolfond
I will echo Franklin on a weakness being the timing to get there. We are all racing to get there and everyone has a little bit of a different angle on how to get there. There are some in the industry that believe there are silver bullets. Someone can take a picture of a driver’s license and its back as well as their face, and because that came from the province and because that person is there, they therefore must be who they say they are. In the cyber world, that is just false. It is very easy for someone to get a fake copy of your driver’s license, put their face on it, and they are going to be able to get through some of this. They can do deepfakes as well. If I am doing a video authentication, then it would be a combination of those tactics. What the real security folks realize is it is the combination of assets that makes verification strong. If I can prove that I have this driver’s license and I also can prove I am loading it on my phone, then that is a lot stronger than just having a driver’s license. If I can prove I can log into my bank, that I have had this account for eight years, and I’ve gotten through the dozens of layers of security, then that is proof that there are no bots or replays, and that it is coming from my device and the banks are checking. Having these different attributes and being able to share our work together is key. We are constantly feeling a sense of urgency of saying we have to bring these things together and get standards that work. We are always feeling this urgency to go faster, because Canada has the opportunity to show the world how to do this well and I really want to see that happen.
TheFutureEconomy.ca: Franklin, what are the national and international opportunities to lead in digital ID for Canada?
Franklin Garrigues: It is an interesting topic and we are looking to see Canada show the way. Canada has a very unique position with a lot of provinces all over, government entities, and a very diverse set of partners. The solution has to work for everyone. The issue is creating a lot of complexity. The key is being interoperable, working together, and having solutions that talk to each other, as well as different verticals that might have different solutions. Different entities or provinces might have different decisions but they all have to talk to each other and that is the complexity we are solving, and that complexity is valued across the world. Very few countries have mastered it. We are on our way to mastering it and if we do, we will be showing the world how to share and connect. That is a very precious aspect of digital identity that a lot of our jurisdictions are trying to go after. That is a key piece of complexity we are likely to solve here. We have made a few very promising steps on this. It is a long road, hence the urgency.
“The key is being interoperable, working together, and having solutions that talk to each other, as well as different verticals that might have different solutions.”Greg Wolfond
Joni Brennan: I think another indicator in terms of international opportunities are one of the things we developed in collaboration with many partners at DIACC’s Pan-Canadian Trust Framework (PCTF). This is a framework that sets out guidance for solutions so that, ideally, they will be interoperable across different technologies.
The scope of our work is inclusive of public and private sectors working together. It is an economy-wide scope. There has not been another framework around the world that has taken that kind of scope that is focused on the economy. For those who pay attention to these topics around the world, there is a framework in Europe called the Electronic Identification, Authentication, and Trust Services (eIDAS). The eIDAS framework is all about identity across different European member states. Now, they are moving into their eIDAS 2.0 version and what they are trying to do with the 2.0 version is create a single digital market that is inclusive of private sector capabilities. That is an important indicator that we have started from the position of working in an economy-wide scale, which includes both public and private sectors. That is the road that we have been on and now, we are seeing other important trading partners like those in the European Union moving to bring the private sector into the work that they have done.
That is a leading indicator that we are on the right path. When we think about solving digital identity in a pan-Canadian approach, not only do we aim to solve this for British Columbians, Ontarians, and Quebecers, British Columbians also want to be able to do business with North Americans and Quebec wants to be doing business with France or other francophone countries. Those are just examples but the trade opportunities and economic growth opportunities are within Canada and well beyond Canada.
TheFutureEconomy.ca: I would love to get more details on the kinds of collaborations that are needed for Canada to continue to grow its position. Could you give me a little bit of an idea, Greg, on what kinds of collaborations you are already leading or that you would like to see more of?
Greg Wolfond: A lot of the work we do already such as with logging into government websites is based on standards, such as Security Assertion Markup Language. Things like OpenID Connect are really important standards. They underlie a lot of the work that DIACC does. There is new work that is coming on this notion of unverifiable credentials: the idea that I could have a driver’s license that is pre-validated, put it into my device and be able to claim my identity to someone who wants to know that it is me. I have control of that and only I know where it goes. The standards are emerging on that under the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) verifiable credential standard. We are also doing a ton of work with Homeland Security. Just recently, they announced work that we are doing on a new project on social security numbers and how to protect them, with lots of interoperability and lots of companies around these global standards.
The thing I push Canada on most is these standards that are emerging as global standards: W3C, OpenID and the rest. These are the things we have to adopt. We started early and those that start early sometimes get into proprietary issues, which makes it a little more difficult to move towards these international standards. The last project we did for Homeland saw us successfully load my green card, validated by the government, to prove that I have a green card and am able to work in the United States.
“The thing I push Canada on most is these standards that are emerging as global standards: W3C, OpenID and the rest. These are the things we have to adopt.”Greg Wolfond
These things are really important but they are only important if I can share it to all the participants in different places. We are going to have interoperability across borders, but we should try and develop things that are based in Canada through this collaboration model but using these international standards to go. The Canadian government has already started some work on verifiable credentials and how we do interoperability on that. If one province is not as secure as some other provinces, we need to be able to add additional security measures such as logging into a bank account or loading a license on a device so that a relying party can trust it.
What we do not want to end up with is bespoke systems like in Australia. New South Wales, as an example, came out with a driver’s license you can load in your phone but it is so weak none of the banks trust it. It is not very good if we get to that point. People will be able to load it quickly and then it is very easy to create fraud. It may help someone get into a bar and prove they are 19 quickly, but if we are trying to use it to open a bank account or to see health records, then people want to be secure. Using these standards, I think we can bring the elements together and make it work well.
Franklin Garrigues: I agree with everything Greg said and the standards are key, but because we are in the early days of building identity, standards may differ a lot. The underlying trend is that this is about customers and consumers who are empowered to share their data. It is a bit of a new world that is opening up here, and it is about customers deciding that they want to be able to share their data with a third party of their choice, and their data may be their identity, identity attributes, or maybe even their financial interaction data—which would be under open banking or consumer-directed finance as we call it in Canada. Everything we are talking about here is about creating standards and the interoperability between these various types of data.
“The underlying trend is that this is about customers and consumers who are empowered to share their data.”Franklin Garrigues
Greg has mentioned a few identity standards. I would add on the list the Financial Data Exchange (FDX). We just announced over the summer that it was coming to Canada. This is a standard around open banking, very much complementary, and we have to think about all these standards and make sure that they are all working together to have a consistent and interoperable ecosystem. Because at the end of the day, we know the expectation from consumers is it that it has to be simple, safe, and secure and that they are empowered to make decisions and share their data as they see fit.
Joni Brennan: In terms of what other collaborations we could use, first, we should fully leverage the existing collaborations that we do have in Canada today. That includes doing this foundational work such as bringing public and private sectors together, which is very hard work. What we should be doing is fully investing in those organizations and spaces where we do see a lot of collaboration happening and where they have been happening over the years. Let us really invest in the collaborations that exist today and get all the benefits that we can out of those. Let us see more collaboration like that, which happens at DIACC or at the Digital Supercluster for example, which has a very open system, meaning we can all learn from the things that we are doing. Those are important points about the existing collaborations because it is tempting to sometimes create another collaboration on top of that so let us first fully leverage what we have.
Franklin and Greg did a great job of talking through some of the tech, and those are all important pieces of the puzzle. We need some collaborations with regard to legislation, particularly legislation around data. For example, the field around verified credentials and digital wallets is very exciting, but it is going to take time to test, learn, propagate, and know that we can have confidence in these kinds of solutions. That said, building pathways so that attribute authorities, those who are authoritative for particular pieces of data, can actually verify those kinds of data with technologies that exist now is important too. We are seeing that in the US in a time that is so politically polarized. There has been a bill that has gone forward with support from the left and right to build a pathway so that organizations like the Social Security Administration and others can have a pathway based on legislation to act as validators of data with consent of the citizen consumer. We need to be addressing solutions for today that will help us get access to data as well as new innovation that is coming forward.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FRAMEWORKS AND GUIDELINES
TheFutureEconomy.ca: Joni, tell us about the PCTF and about some of its recommendations. Why is that important for Canada?
Joni Brennan: The PCTF is a one-of-a-kind framework that has been built for collaboration of the public and the private sectors. The scope of the framework is around the verification of people, entities like businesses or governments, and of the relationships between each. That is a unique scope and that is why that scope is grouped as such, so that it addresses economic-based use cases that are important for all of us and drive societal benefits.
The PCTF is technology agnostic. It prescribes different technologies at different risk profiles. It does not say you must use one technology or another but it does know which are appropriate for different kinds of risk profiles. It sets that guidance as a tool for interoperability. It is not a singular tool but it is a tool to bring together and organize the forces within Canada to make things happen. We are very proud of the work that is being done there. We have run over 41 public review periods and processed 3,500 comments from over five countries around the world. While this is a Canadian framework, we are building for the digital economy. We have worked in the open and are very inclusive around the world, and that is unique. We have reached version 1.0, so this is the first version of this framework, and now we are moving into what we are calling alpha testing. Alpha testing is the period when we work with diverse stakeholders. We make sure that the framework performs as it was designed to, that it provides value, and that it will be one of those tools to accelerate Canada forward.
In 2021, we will be launching a Trustmark assurance program which will be a market driving Trustmark, and that will enable different solutions and service providers to recognize each other as having gone through some sort of verification or assessment so that they can know that entity is more trustworthy and they can have more confidence in it. This is a trust-building feature one can gain by participating in this program, working together as a community, and sending signals that certain products and services have been verified and so therefore, should have more trust and confidence. Those are the kinds of tools that we need to move the digital economy forward for Canadians.
TheFutureEconomy.ca: Greg, from the point of view of companies in the digital tech or fintech space, what is the value of the framework?
Greg Wolfond: When it comes to these standards, we have to agree as a nation that it is important to have both public and private participation. As Joni said, you have to be able to figure out how to bring in existing collaborations and make them interoperate and get going. Only then will we be able to move this forward in a secure and safe way for everybody that is there.
To Joni’s point earlier, some of these standards are not yet finalized, like the W3C verifiable credential. While there are drafts, they probably will not get finalized until summer next year. That said, lots of places like British Columbia and others are playing with these credentials. We are playing with them and working with Homeland Security to bring them together and make them interoperable because we want to be able to do the things we are doing now with things like FDX, which is largely on the OpenID rails. There are also measures like Concierge where you are logging in with your bank, but also bringing in a driver’s license and other credentials in-person so you can prove who you are. There are also use cases such as renting an apartment. One needs to prove they are who they say they are, that their credit is good, and that they have an income to be able to make the payment. That is what we are trying to get to but it is difficult. To get a mortgage, how do I prove my income? If someone can share information from the CRA—we did a Build in Canada Innovation Program with them—then they can share their validated income. They can share from a bank that they are who they say they are, they can share their credit score, and we can get to a point where people are able to get a mortgage in seconds instead of weeks.
“It is so important for Canadians to be able to do things more efficiently because it makes the economy move.”Greg Wolfond
The whole point is the value to the Canadian economy, even for situations like showing up to see one’s health records and proving it is their identity like what we are doing in Canada with the Identity, Authentication, and Authorization program in Ontario. It is so important for Canadians to be able to do things more efficiently because it makes the economy move. These are the things consumers want to do. We all want to do it. We all have time limits and restrictions and we want to be able to do things faster and with more security to get things done more safety.
I like to say that at SecureKey we do a lot and we add a little bit of the value that comes in the middle. What we try to do is bring authenticators and trusted parties together, such as helping TD, CIBC, or RBC to initiate a client to say, yes, this is me coming to the bank. We connect the telcos so that Rogers, Bell, or Telus can say, yes, this person has the correct phone, the SIM is in the device, or the SIM has not changed. We can connect to the provincial government so that we can get proof that yes, this is that person’s driver’s license from Ontario, BC or other places. The person matches the face, he is loaded on his phone, and other variables. We can bring credit scores into play and we can say if someone is on a fraud watch list.
The whole point is that parties that use this need to know it is safe and consumers need a really easy user experience with less friction. A consumer can just show up and the system will ask if they are willing to share information from their bank, telco, and driver’s license. Once consent is given, the system goes to get that data and it shares it to the person in charge—consumers are going to love that. But under the covers, the cyber stuff it is doing such as checking the phones or the due diligence of the bank is as important as the user experience but both have to work really well. As Joni says, if we do not bring the private sector into this and just use the public sector, it is not going to be secure or fast enough, and it is not going to be adopted the same way. Consumers want this to work for healthcare, for getting a car, renting an apartment, getting a bank account, and more. They want it to work ubiquitously everywhere, so we need to figure out how to make things simpler for all of us.
TheFutureEconomy.ca: Franklin, from your perspective working at one of Canada’s largest banks and dealing with a lot of different stakeholders, what does the framework mean to you and is the banking sector supportive of it?
Franklin Garrigues: DIACC is a very important feature that the Canadian market has. Very few countries have this type of collaboration between the private and public sectors and the PCTF is the brainchild of DIACC. It has been a few years of work and so it is a major milestone that was reached this summer with the first version of PCTF. It is a proud moment for us all and every bank and every business in the loan industry is behind this effort.
The PCTF is one of the key foundations to help us build interoperable identity across Canada and that is very important. When you look across the world, there are very few countries where the government or private sector have tried to build this scheme. It always comes down to adoption and it is key to be interoperable and to be adopted by more than one vertical. This is what the PCTF enables. The PCTF is putting in place the foundation of credibility for identity schemes to work in the private sector and in the public sector. It is a major milestone and we see it as a key foundation for identity networks being built in Canada.
Greg Wolfond: Franklin summed it up well. We have strong participation from all of the financial institutions in Canada, telcos, credit agencies, and government. The desire to solve this is there and it just comes down to connecting the dots to make it interoperable and getting it to go.
IMPROVING DIGITAL ID IN CANADA
TheFutureEconomy.ca: Joni, what are your key recommendations to improve digital ID and Canada’s position competitively?
Joni Brennan: The key recommendation to improve our position competitively is that we need to continue to invest in our collaborative approach. We need to put real investment and sustained investment behind this. As noted earlier, we do need to continue to move faster. If we look at Canada’s Digital Charter, for example, the principles laid out there are directly addressed by solving digital identity that works for all Canadians. The PCTF is a tool to help set that guidance for interoperability and its principles are based on security, efficiency, and societal and economic benefits for every Canadian. Every Canadian should have the opportunity to participate in the digital economy to secure their job, whether they live in the cities or the rural landscapes. They should have the opportunity to participate in this ecosystem. This is not only about convenience, but also about national economic security.
“Studies have shown that by solving digital identity we can bring back 3% to 6% of gross domestic product (GDP) to the Canadian economy. That is roughly $47 billion to $96 billion back into our economy while also making our lives better.”Joni Brennan
If we look at the world today, to do counter visits and password resets, whether you are in person or on the phone, can take up to $30 per person, per visit. This is a massive amount of money and that is just looking at inefficiency alone. Studies have shown that by solving digital identity we can bring back 3% to 6% of gross domestic product (GDP) to the Canadian economy. That is roughly $47 billion to $96 billion back into our economy while also making our lives better.
We have to act now. COVID-19 has only driven that urgency so any organization that wants to move this space forward for their business, government, or family, get involved. Get involved if you are in industry with an organization like DIACC. If you are not in the industry, demand this from your Members of Parliament or from journalists. Demand these kinds of solutions and services because we cannot wait another winter in a time of social distancing without them.
This is the time to step forward and not to step back. When you are thinking about that value creation, imagine it like trying to predict the value of connecting the electrical grid before the electrical grid was connected. Think of all the things that we can do now with the electrical grid connected. It is hard to predict where identity and the ability to verify yourself with security, privacy, respect, and empowerment over your own data will take us, but we firmly believe it is in the billions of dollars and we need to act now.
TheFutureEconomy.ca: Franklin, what kind of actions would you like to see to improve digital ID in Canada and by who?
Franklin Garrigues: First, Joni, thank you for bringing up the value at stake. It is important to keep in mind this has very tangible economic value for the Canadian economy.
I would like to focus on the consumer. In terms of advice for participants in this endeavour, keeping the consumer in the centre is very important. We have been talking about how this is about consumers being empowered to share their data. For this to be successful, there are a few key conditions that have to be met. One is it has to be safe, secure, and private. It has to be very well architected so that consumers feel they are in charge. It has to put the consumer in the centre. The consumer has to be in control and this is what consumers and customers expect. They expect to be in control of their data and to be successful, we have to give them that control. A lot of solutions we are seeing are heading that way.
The last piece I would add is about education. This is where stakeholders can play an important role. We are entering a new world where sharing our data, managing our data, and being party to how we protect our data is going to be an emerging trend. It brings emerging capabilities that we are all learning. We have a long way to go in educating consumers and making sure people understand what they are doing, who are they sharing their data with, and how safe they are or not. That education is a long road and every stakeholder need to be contributing.
Greg Wolfond: COVID-19 has lit a fire under this and people now realize we need this more and we need it faster than ever.
The biggest point I make is coming to what Joni said earlier. This cannot wait until next year to be done. It is already happening today. People can show up at a bank, they can log into an existing institution, share their information, check with the telco, check with Equifax, and get their data. They can have their driver’s license or passport and be able to validate them. We are working now in projects with the federal government to get interoperability and get these going. This exists today and so my big push is that this is happening now. Canada has the opportunity to not only get the economic benefit but also to show the world how this cooperation works and get things done. It is not going to be brand new networks that get done. It is connecting the collaborations as Joni said before. They exist, and we need to be able to show others how we get it done, how we manage the cyber threats that are coming, how we get a much stronger position on cyber resilience, and also enable consumers to be able to be in control and share their data. At the end, we are within shooting distance of getting that done. We just have to get over the line.
TheFutureEconomy.ca: To wrap this up, I would like to ask each of you to give us your final 20-second pitch, and I would love if you could very specifically say who you would like to see take action.
Joni Brennan: What we believe needs to happen right away is that the digital identity file at the federal government needs to be shared by Industry Canada and by the Digital Government Ministers, Minister Navdeep Bains and Minister Joyce Murray. That will provide checks and balances to ensure that Canada’s way forward is focused on the economic sector, the private sector, industry, as well as citizens and their needs. Further, I would like to see the federal government commit to working with the provinces and territories on issuing one piece of government issued digital identity or making that kind of data available for Canadians to use. We would like to see that by December 31st, 2021.
Franklin Garrigues: To build a successful digital identity scheme in Canada, a vibrant and diverse economy and country, there will be several solutions. A lot of people are building solutions. My message to all stakeholders is to collaborate and work together on developing common rails and standards. My advice is to participate in industry groups and make sure you are building interoperability. It is great to optimize your solution, but also make sure it works with others across the public and private sectors. This message is addressed to provinces, the federal government, and businesses in various verticals: make sure what you are building is interoperable and catering to the rest of Canada. This will make us a stronger and successful Canada.
Greg Wolfond: I agree with the comments of both Joni and Franklin. The time is now. The opportunity to bring these capabilities together and turn solutions on is now. We need the federal government and the provincial governments to see what PCTF and DIACC is doing in bringing these parts together, and turn on these capabilities now.
Right now we are at a point where the cyber capabilities of the bad folks are going up exponentially and unless we bring together the capabilities of the nation’s banks, telcos, and governments, we are not going to get ahead of that and we have to be doing that now. There has to be a realization that yes, it is empowering consumers to share their data but there are real cyber threats now and if we do not work together we are not going to solve that.
Franklin Garrigues: The three people you have here are passionate about this topic and spend our days talking to each other and to others about it so thank you for bringing us together. Thank you for spreading the word on the topic.
Joni Brennan: DIACC performed a survey of Canadians coast-to-coast last year and one of the things that we found in that survey was that seven out of ten Canadians wanted to see the public and private sector work together to get this done. Canadians believe the right way forward is by the public and private sectors working together. That story is available on our site in French and English. We are going to rerun it this year to see what has changed but Canadians want this and they want government and business to work together.
TheFutureEconomy.ca: There is lots to consider and there are many opportunities for Canada. It seems like we are already well-positioned so hopefully we can go after those opportunities. It also seems like the time is now. Our goal at theFutureEconomy.ca is to promote Canada’s future economy and competitiveness by promoting these important national conversations.