Unifying digital identity with a ‘trust fabric’

Jason Stevens

Each Australian state is carving its path in digital identity, some embracing ISO standards while others choose different routes. The critical challenge is bridging these divergent paths to achieve a unified, interoperable nationwide system. 

New South Wales leads with its verifiable credentials approach — its NSW driver’s licence solution was ahead of its time and delivered a superior user experience — while Queensland champions ISO standards and Victoria paves its unique path.  

Despite each state showcasing its own ‘pockets of brilliance’, this diversity adds to the challenge. The task now is about pioneering and connecting these diverse approaches to create a unified, interoperable digital identity system across Australia. 

However, the public sector mandating a digital identity might not be the best approach as “Inherently, Australians don’t like the government telling them what to do,” Ashley Diffey, Ping Identity’s VP for sales in APAC and Japan, said on the latest episode of the Identity Matters: Digital Identity and the Evolution of the Internet podcast series, hosted by InnovationAus.com in partnership with Ping Identity. 

Instead, the broader adoption of frameworks like the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF) is required, combined with greater user control, consent, and convenience. The challenge lies in enabling residents of New South Wales, Victoria, or Queensland to use their state-verified digital identities to access services nationwide.  

They find it beneficial and convenient, not because they are mandated.  

Moreover, it’s essential to consider that historically, the responsibility of identity origination largely rests with the states through departments like Births, Deaths and Marriages.  

“The federal government’s role becomes essential in defining how these identity sources interact and establish trust, as it controls a small fraction of identity origination,” Versent general manager for identity and security Eddie Smith, a co-speaker on the podcast, said.

TDIF has made progress in defining these interactions, despite some initial hurdles. However, the integration process remains challenging, mainly due to the trust level required for onboarding.  

Ping Identity’s Ashley Diffey, Versent’s Eddie Smith, and InnovationAus.com’s James Riley

Therefore, alternative solutions with lower onboarding requirements because they pass less data, like Connect ID, are gaining favour. 

 “They build what we happily call a ‘trust fabric’ or a ‘trust network’. This distributed approach to identity is the future, not a single point that rules everything,” said Mr Smith.  

To illustrate the value of this interconnected trust fabric, consider a real-world scenario where a banking customer has forgotten his bank card and needs to withdraw cash from an ATM.  

With an interconnected trust fabric, the ATM can verify the customer’s digital identity directly, cross-referencing with various trusted sources like banks or government ID databases. The customer can withdraw cash solely based on his verified digital identity without a physical card. 

This seamless integration between the digital and physical worlds demonstrates the enormous potential of a well-established trust network in transforming everyday tasks.  

The Identity Matters: Digital Identity and the Evolution of the Internet podcast series and accompanying articles are produced by InnovationAus.com in partnership with Ping Identity. 

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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