In the future state, individuals have digital wallets, that hold digital credentials issued by trusted authorities that are digitally capable of being used to verify one’s identity online. This starts with cryptographically signed ID documents, like mobile driver’s licenses, as the first big distribution channel, but it can expand much further. With the ever-increasing shift to digital-first core social and societal infrastructure, people will need credentials or attestations to represent all facets of their identity digitally in a more secure way.
Here is what this would look like in the real world:
Let’s imagine a thirty-nine-year-old Californian resident, Claire. Claire is a family doctor, who runs her own private practice. There are many attributes of Claire’s identity that she would need to be able to securely prove in an increasingly digital world.
Proof of Identity: Claire has a mobile driver’s license issued by the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles. Aside from proving her eligibility to operate a vehicle, this digital credential can be used to open a new bank account or apply for a business license for her private practice.
Proof of Residency: Claire can also use her mobile driver’s license to prove she is a resident of California to access public benefits.
Proof of Education: Claire has a digital diploma credential issued by the university she attended for her undergraduate degree, as well as the university she attended for medical school. She can present this to patients, who might want to verify her education, or to her bank’s underwriter, who might be considering extending a line of credit for her business.
Proof of Medical License: If Claire needs privileges as a visiting doctor at a nearby hospital, she has to be able to show her medical license for the State of California. She might also have a license for nearby states that she would need to prescribe medication to patients through Telemedicine consultations in neighboring states. Although federal standards govern medical training and testing, doctors need to procure licenses for each state they practice medicine in.
Proof of Business License: Claire needs to register for a business license with the Secretary of State in California and be able to present this business license to verify the validity of her business in various scenarios. For example, if she was applying for a small business loan at her local bank, she would need to be able to present a copy of her business license.
Conversely, Claire also needs to be able to verify information about her patients. Currently, most of this happens through cumbersome, labor-intensive manual paperwork or faxing of records, but could have much less friction through a digital-first approach.
Proof of Insurance: Patients that visit Claire’s office would need to present proof of their insurance. Like most practitioners, Claire’s office accepts multiple insurance providers and therefore, she needs to be able to verify a standard format for all health insurance credentials.
Proof of Medical History: As Claire accepts new patients to her practice, she needs to be able to access their health records. In the current healthcare system, patients’ health records are fragmented across various providers and, oftentimes, the patients themselves find it challenging to request their records be shared with their new providers, either electronically or by faxing documents from previous providers.
Proof of Immunizations: Similarly, Claire will need to access her patients’ immunization records. Some states, like the State of California, maintain a vaccine registry where patients can request their vaccination history, but each state has a different approach and patients are still required to cobble together their information if they’ve lived in multiple states.
As was previously discussed, there were attempts in the late 1990s to begin building this type of digital identity architecture; however, it faced adoption challenges. Now, a very different landscape has emerged, made possible by the proliferation of the internet and smartphones, coupled with advancements in cryptography and alignment in standards bodies for technology for digital credentials. The movement to a new digital identity paradigm can be catalyzed by the issuance and adoption of mobile driver’s licenses.