There are few things that accelerate change, especially those that have a dramatic impact on our day to day lives. The first is war, the second is financial crisis and the third, a viral pandemic. Let’s skip the discussions re war and financial crisis and move straight to viral pandemics, given the current state of coronavirus.
Right now, across many areas of the globe we are seeing institutions and businesses going into lock-down, changing their operating patterns and the way in which many people are working. I’ve noted a dramatic increase in people working from home, traveling for work is in dramatic free fall (especially flying), events are being cancelled wherever you look and subscriptions to services that allow remote working collaboration to appear to be increasing. (Good news for some then). In some areas its now becoming mandated that people work from home. So, coronavirus is for sure having an impact on how we work.
Will coronavirus drive change in terms of our digital lives? Nick Ogden, arguably the father of e-commerce (creating the worlds first ever online store) and the founder of WorldPay stated recently that, “a pandemic of this nature is going to trigger a significant change in working practices, accelerating changes that ordinarily would have taken years to work through”. Who can really argue with him here? The issue is then, what changes are we likely to see. Clearly the most obvious involves the flexibility and freedoms of working remotely. This isn’t new, technology has moved forward in recent years that allow teams to be dispatched all over the globe, and yet still be highly productive and collaborative. Slack and Microsoft Teams are just two products that distributed teams rely on. Our own team here at ID Crypt Global is very much distributed, that is by design to help ensure our carbon footprint remains neutral. Collaboration tools though help ensure we have that sense of “team” and connected nature between us all. But the factor that has stopped more mass adoption of this form of working has been organizational culture. By this I mean the “fear” that people working from home aren’t really working. This is a mindset issue that has slowed this working model gaining greater traction right across the globe. Barclays has very recently exhibited this very lack of trust in its workforce with its “big brother” staff tracking system. Thankfully, it appears that the bank has now scrapped the system. (Read the article here on the BBC https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51570401)
However, organizations are now being forced to operate in this way. I predict that the learning from this will be that our workforce is just as productive if not more so, when they have the flexibility to work from home. This will clearly have an impact on the culture of an organization. The second area is our digital interactions. If we are working more remotely, if we are placing yet more of our lives on the internet, then how do we drive improving trust models and ensuring we constantly improve our security models and capabilities, both as individuals but also as employers. For me, this is all about digital identity, how do I really prove who I am in a verifiable factor, while at the same time protecting myself, keeping private what I want to be private and only sharing that which I am happy to share.
The team of advisors here at ID Crypt often get asked about use cases for DLT (blockchain) obviously around identity, but also typical use cases such as crypto currency, assets, stable coins and smart contracts. It’s important to challenge your own thinking in terms of technologies and their use cases, as a team, we struggle to find many use cases that DLT really enables. However, identity is an area where it excels, and the use case stacks up 100% with the technology and its capabilities. DLT here is a game changer, it enables the removal of Central Authorities from a trust model, providing an immutable source of truth in a digital world. The capabilities that DLT provides and its cryptographic credentials bring trust to all aspects of where it is used. With our greater dependency, and now enforced dependency on a digital working environment, it is these levels of requirement for trust (specifically around identity) that can drastically accelerate the use of true digital identities.
W3C – DIDs
The challenges for a global digital identity are massive, however, the demand and need is equally great. Governance and interoperability is always a challenge with such grand ideas, however, change is coming. Already we are seeing many digital identity solutions being implemented across a raft of industries. Collaboration to enable this innovation to scale globally is required, some of which is at a governmental level, and all of this will take time. But with war, financial crisis and pandemics, things that take years are drastically accelerated.
The greatest challenge has been the “format” for our digital identities, the way in which we can use an identity to verify who we are. While there have been proprietary or very centralized versions solutions, the W3C is now at v1 for its Decentralized Identity (DID) standard. It is this standard that allows us to truly accelerate digital identity and drastically improve interoperability between identity providers.
Coronavirus has fundamentally turned many of our worlds up-side down, and this could be just the start of things. Though while it is impacting our life experiences, it may be the additional “spark” that, on top of the W3C standards for DIDs, brings around real change, propelling our digital lives to a new age of trust, security and seamless user experiences…