New players in an open ecosystem
There’s a difference between digitising an existing process – such as taking the application and issuing process for a specific state driver licence online – and creating a holistic licensing platform. And Dan Reynolds, Australia Post’s Digital iD™ Head of Product, believes new technology levels the playing field so nimble startups can reimagine how these processes work – fast.
“We’ll see a shift towards consortia-led engagements, bringing together government, start-ups, academics and trusted providers,” he explains. “They’ll demonstrate and then agree on an open standard for participation, and the other organisations can jump on board for their own scenarios.”
This collaborative approach is imperative if you want to thrive in the next wave of technology, according to Reynolds. “Previously, organisations could operate in a silo. But the winners of the next tech revolution can’t act as an island with centralised control. And they’ll need to commit to shared principles for consumer privacy and control.”
For example, MIT has partnered with local software developer Learning Machine to provide students with a tamper-proof diploma via blockchain technology. It was built using an open-source toolkit, Blockcerts.
“One problem MIT had was verifying prior learning for international students,” says Reynolds. “They were looking for a way to reduce dependence on a registrar’s office as an intermediary.”
The solution encrypts the data, but allows students to share it with other institutions or employers around the world, using a public-private encryption key pair. Reynolds believes this could have direct application to many other types of credentials.
Keeping the consumer front and centre
Unless a new tech solution is both secure and mobile, early adopters won’t trust it. “Trust today is interesting, because we now tend to trust the tech platform more than the institution behind it,” comments Reynolds.
He emphasises that digital licencing’s consumer value proposition needs to balance security and portability, and it’s important to ensure an open platform doesn’t mean that data is open to all.
“The technology will only succeed if consumers adopt it. We shouldn’t lock a consumer in with a closed standard that prevents them from using their preferred device or application.”
Open standards also create more opportunities for global interoperability. Digital licences need to be easily verified readable and in other states and countries, for instance when hiring a car or as proof of age.
Unlocking a new world of possibilities
When CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) released the underlying code for the web on a royalty-free basis, it unleashed unprecedented waves of innovation. One of the latest waves – the peer-to-peer and sharing economies – proves technology can enable trust between strangers on a scale that wasn’t possible before.
Importantly, the same approach should be taken when it comes to digital licensing, and an underlying open credentials platform. An open credentialing platform, allowing developers to easily extend has the potential to deliver innovations that we haven’t yet imagined.
“As soon as you move to an open system, new ideas flourish,” says Reynolds. “If we can put licensing and credentialing into the hands of smart, creative people, we can empower them to come up with amazing solutions.”
Importantly, an open standards approach requires leadership. Given that many traditional fintech models depend on monetising data monopolies, it won’t happen by happy accident. But organisations including Australia Post’s Digital iD™, Identity.Foundation and Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, are all demonstrating the potential of different types of technology and open framework models.