From 18th – 20th June, the Digital Identity unConference Europe (DICE) took part in Zurich. It served as a magnifying glass to the world of digital identities, revealing insights and collaborative efforts across various states, industries and communities.

Swiss E-ID: Addressing the Elephant in the Room

The first day of the unConference contained inputs from representatives in government, business and technology. In a highly anticipated opening statement Federal Councillor Beat Jans, the ‘elephant in the room’ got addressed right away: When and in what form will the E-ID and the associated trust infrastructure  be ready? Mr. Jans clarified the projected timeline and the expected form of the new E-ID infrastructure in Switzerland, as the Swiss parliament is set to pass the necessary legislation in the upcoming fall. The Federal administration envisions a multi-stack approach, relying on different technologies in order to ensure optimal security as well as interoperability. The Federal Councillor’s insights built on the previous rejection of an E-ID project by Swiss voters in 2021. As a consequence, Mr. Jans emphasised that the revised approach aimed to be more transparent and secure, incorporating feedback from various stakeholders to ensure broader acceptance. 

Global Perspectives: E-ID Approaches in Different States and Cultures

Additionally, the first day of the DICE set the Swiss E-ID project in an international context: Discussions explored how other countries are navigating the challenges and opportunities of digital identity systems, highlighting the diverse approaches to E-ID implementations across different regions of the world. From the EU’s eIDAS framework to the US government’s E-ID projects, the discussions underscored the importance of considering cultural and legal differences as well as the challenges regarding interoperability that lie ahead. Interoperability between different E-ID systems holds the premise of  a seamless user experience and broader acceptance, yet it remains a challenging frontier. Various panellists emphasised the need for a steady and well-structured approach when it comes ensuring interoperability.

The unConference format: A Hub for Collaborative Learning

For the remaining days of DICE,the traditional conference format was abandoned. Instead, the unConference format fostered an open, participatory environment where every attendee could contribute and set up their own sessions to discuss a specific topic. This dynamic setup allowed for a fluid exchange of ideas and projects, making it an ideal setting for tackling the multifaceted issues of digital identity.

User Acceptance

A recurring theme was the critical need for trust to achieve broader user acceptance, which was illustrated by discussions surrounding the implementation of the EU identity wallet system. Practical user experience focuses on making interfaces user-friendly and straightforward, with feedback loops to refine the system. Experts pointed to the importance of the wallet’s contextual relevance, accessibility to a vast amount of users, and ability to protect sensitive data. Industry standards can thereby influence its functionalities, while guardianship mechanisms should ensure that users’ rights and data are protected. The recovery process was mentioned as a vital aspect, as it must be robust and user-friendly to mitigate data loss risks and reinforce user trust in the system. By enhancing these aspects, the EU aims to create a digital identity wallet that is not only technologically robust but also widely accepted and used by the public.

Organisational Identity

The concept of organisational identity emerged as a more recent effort within the digital identity sphere. Organisational identity addresses how companies and organisations maintain their unique digital presence securely and consistently in a digital space. As organisations increasingly interact with various digital ecosystems — be it for regulatory compliance, customer engagement, or internal operations — the need for a coherent and secure organisational digital identity becomes paramount. Such an identity thereby encapsulates the organisation’s core attributes, such as its business type, industry standards, and operational roles, ensuring that all transactions and interactions are traceable and verifiable. Additionally, as organisations undergo digital transformations, maintaining a consistent identity across multiple platforms and services is essential to prevent fraud and enhance operational efficiency. Implementing strong authentication and authorization mechanisms can help organisations mitigate risks and enhance trust with partners and customers. 

Quantum Resilience

With quantum computing on the horizon, the unConference also touched upon the need for quantum-resistant digital identities. As quantum computers become more and more powerful in future, they could potentially break many of the cryptographic protocols that current digital identity systems rely on. The digital identity community is increasingly focused on developing quantum-resistant cryptography methods to ensure that digital identities remain secure even as the landscape of computing evolves. The challenge lies not only in developing these new cryptographic standards but also in integrating them into existing digital systems in a way that is seamless and transparent to users. This proactive approach in anticipating quantum resilience will play a vital role in maintaining the long-term security and viability of digital identity systems, safeguarding user data against future technological disruptions and ensuring that the digital identity ecosystem can withstand the next wave of upcoming computing advancements.

The Digital Identity unConference Europe was an innovative and collaborative  ground for sowing the seeds and growing solutions of future digital identity frameworks and technologies. The discussions and insights provided not only a snapshot of current challenges and innovations but also a vision for the path forward — a path characterised by inclusivity, security, and adaptability to future technological shifts.