Linking of multiple IDs to develop ‘Federated Digital Identities’ mooted

Govt. wants to optimise number of digital identities a citizen needs to have

January 31, 2022 06:22 am | Updated 06:22 am IST - NEW DELHI

The government has invited stakeholder comments on a proposal that seeks to establish ‘Federated Digital Identities’ to optimise the number of digital identities that a citizen needs to have, by linking various consumer identification data into a single unique ID for digital transactions such as authentication and eKYC services.

The proposal is part of the Ministry of Electronics and IT’s India Enterprise Architecture 2.0 (IndEA 2.0) framework that aims to enable the governments and the private sector enterprises to design IT architectures that can span beyond organisational boundaries for delivery of integrated services.

“As various government platforms across domains are being digitised, there is a tendency to create more IDs each with its own ID card, ID management, and effort to make it unique, etc,” the Ministry has said in the draft, on which stakeholder comments have been invited till February 27.

“Having a multitude [of] IDs, especially to interact with the government, makes it harder for common man for whom these are created! Especially given the diversity in education, awareness and capabilities, this also has a potential to further create exclusion scenarios,” it said, adding that while the intent of the State is to care for the vulnerable and the poor, systems must still be designed to provide agency and choice to people.

At the same time, the architecture must make it easy and convenient for people to participate and access their documents, data and entitlements, it said.

Noting that digital Identity is fundamental to enabling the citizen to answer the first question asked in any interaction with a public or private organisation — ‘who I am’, it pointed out that Aadhaar seems to have answered this question at population scale in respect of all publicly-funded schemes. However, the Ministries and the States are required to create several identities for the same citizen acting in different capacities like student, teacher, farmer, land owner, entrepreneur, customer of a bank, driver, owner of a vehicle, pensioner and so on.

“InDEA 2.0 proposes a model of Federated Digital Identities that seeks to optimise the number of digital identities that a citizen needs to have. The model empowers the citizen by putting her in control of these identities and providing her the option of choosing which one to use for what purpose. It gives the agency to the citizens and protects privacy-by-design. The same logic holds for entities. And the model is generic enough to establish identity ecosystem for entities as well,” it said.

It explained that electronic registries can be linked via the IDs to allow easy, paperless onboarding of citizens and also avoid repeated data verification needs. For example, when a beneficiary is registered for the PDS scheme, that record will be linked to Aadhaar by the PDS system storing the Aadhaar number (or a tokenised version of it). Similarly, when someone obtains a PAN, that record gets linked to Aadhaar where the Aadhaar number becomes the linking ID. Then when that person obtains a mutual fund account, PAN number, in turn, gets linked to the mutual fund record.

“Ability to reuse an existing registry [under appropriate policy/law] of pre-verified attributes is critical to eliminate this repeated verification process that is costly, error prone and most importantly inconvenient to citizens,” it said.

It said when a registry allows users to use “existing IDs from other registries” to be used as an authentication mechanism, it not only creates an “auto verified/attested” set of fields in the new registry (registry provider does not have to re-verify those fields again), but also gives convenience to the people to reuse and leverage commonly used IDs. “This fundamental design pattern is what allowed Aadhaar to become a “building block” for other systems allowing banks to open accounts with eKYC [attested common fields coming from Aadhaar in digitally signed manner] and allow transactions with authentication,” it stated.

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