Decentralized identity has evolved from an interesting idea— with lots of technical challenges—to a compelling solution that’s beginning commercial implementation. And a global pandemic has only made this paradigm shift in how we manage identity more urgent and more tantalizingly close.
Many of us are now leading decentralized lives—aka working from home—which has created new demands for repeated authentication. Contactless, and touchless solutions to managing the daily logistics of business and life have, in a few months, become essential. And new challenges to recreating some semblance of our pre-pandemic world—returning to work and college, opening up travel and tourism—combine with imminent need to prove that we have been vaccinated.
Verifiable digital credentials are the best possible solution to all these problems. The underlying technology has been built from the ground up to manage privacy and security in a way that meets public concerns and legal compliance. We know that; our clients know that. The only question is what to we need to do to give an an emerging technology the velocity required for it to be easily usable?
At Indicio, we believe this stage will be reached through focus on the three Es: Ecosystem, Evolution, and Execution.
What do we mean by “ecosystem?”
If you are looking to launch a satellite, you want the whole process to be integrated—the launch platform, the rocket, the fuel supply, the guidance software, and the staff to make it all work. If you have to assemble all this yourself, chances are you’re not getting off the ground in a hurry.
Similarly, in order to launch decentralized identity solutions, you need the equivalent of a NASA, a SpaceX, to say ‘we’ve got everything you need to start your mission, and we can help you—every step of the way—get you to where you want to go.’ This is Indicio’s model for professional services: We’re building the launch system, why not add your payload? We can help you with the tech—and we can add business, marketing, and governance support too. This is what our clients want; and we believe the market needs this ecosystemic approach to achieve rapid adoption.
The point of thinking about decentralized identity in an ecosystematic way is that it’s the simplest path to implementation. Everything’s there; you can focus on building your solution and not be slowed down by having to assemble the infrastructure to support your solution. Make this path simple and we will achieve velocity. That’s why we at Indicio are laser focused on working with our clients and the open source community to fill the remaining gaps in the technology.
This points to what can be missed by the wider marketplace when we, as a community, say “open source” and “interoperable.” When making an investment in technology, nobody wants to buy into a system that could quickly become obsolescent. That fear can be paralyzing. But being open sourced and interoperable are the keys to this not happening. Because the ecosystem is designed to be interoperable, and it is being fed by a diverse development community committed to open sourcing, it is capable of creating and absorbing new and better versions of itself.
Seamless, continuous updating is what makes Hyperledger so powerful; but it is only one side of the benefit of interoperability. For decentralized identity to take off, it will also need to be integrated into many legacy identity systems and processes. A health credential will need to be embedded in a university portal or added to a ticketing requirement system. Evolution means that there is also a path for legacy systems to adapt to using verifiable credentials. Open source is, once again, the key to this happening and scaling fast. That’s why Indicio is donating code back to the open source libraries. Think of it as collective rocket fuel.
Finally, we all know what execution means; but it’s something so easily forgotten that there is a bestselling business book titled “Execution” to remind you that progress is made when results are delivered. By execution, we mean build. Build use cases. Build as many as possible as quickly as possible. Deliver on the promise of decentralized identity by deploying solutions.
Because decentralized identity is a big concept—potentially revolutionary when it comes to how we live online—it’s all too easy to get lost in its theoretical components and benefits. We get this; decentralized identity is, after all, a response to the failure to bake in human identity to the web at the start; it’s a response to our collective failure to make data privacy a central consumer right of the digital age. Taking the time to think through decentralized identity is an important lesson of past mistakes in technological innovation.
But we’ve already thought about it a lot. What we need now are early solutions that show the world how it works and how it will deliver benefits and cure pain points. In fact, our thinking about decentralized identity will develop and mature through building these deployments and solving these pain points. Governance will be informed by the actual governance issues different stakeholders bring to the table, not hypothesized in the absence of a statement of work, a deliverable, and a deadline. Now is the time to execute on all the years spent thinking about a moment that has, in fact, arrived.