Digital identity to take off thanks to COVID-19 but who will win this race?

Digital identity
Image credit | blackboard/

Digital identity has been a discussion point for the communications industry for a long time. As long ago as the late 90s and early 2000s, GSM operators were wondering whether the new digital technology was secure enough to step up. Some countries believed that passports could be abolished and replaced by phones.

Now, two decades later and triggered by a global pandemic, the discussion has found new urgency and focus. Much of this is driven by people working from home (and partly the devices they attach to corporate networks).

A new report from Juniper Research predicts an enormous growth in digital identity apps between now and 2025 when the number in use will reach 6.2 billion. The majority of these apps will be in use across India, China and much of Asia Pacific, with far less uptake in North America and Europe.

A big driver for digital identity will be Government-led and will account for 90% of apps by 2024 and as a result use of physical identity cards will dwindle. This growth will come largely from emerging markets and as a response to a post COVID world.

For as long as there has been discussion about digital identity, there has been a discussion about who and how it will work and fit together. The problem is that digital identity is not that straightforward. The many use cases involved require a different approach for each one. According to Juniper, there are three main types of digital identity – centralised, federated and decentralised, all of which are used in ID Networks.

One reason that the pandemic is triggering this growth is because of security issues around IoT and working from home. There has been a spike in criminals targeting home workers, leveraging the need for useful news and information about the virus itself and attacking new connected devices within the home.

The GSMA has been promoting the digital identity issue for some years and continues to do so. The Association believes that mobile operators have a potentially beneficial and lucrative role to play, as trust, already an important asset, becomes ever more so during this time of uncertainty.

There is no doubt that digital identity will be critical for many reasons in the coming months and years.

The discussion, though, will take on a familiar pattern. Who, exactly, is in the right place to leverage this opportunity – the mobile operator, the app designer, the device manufacturer or some other third party.

Sadly, there is a feeling that we know who will not be in the right place.

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