“Interoperability is the biggest challenge”: it’s a race to launch the ‘digital wallet’ of the future for citizens and companies in Europe

"Interoperability is the biggest challenge": it's a race to launch the 'digital wallet' of the future for citizens and companies in Europe

Every time a person wants to register for a service or platform, he is forced to create a new identitywith their own credentials or password, and a new bidder must respond to the requirement to generate and distribute their data.

Europe wants to turn the tables. That is why, over the years, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has been charting a future in which European citizens and companies will be able to rely on state-of-the-art digital identity systems, known as . Purse hey digital walletthat would allow them Completion of procedures in all member countries Of the union

The idea first surfaced in the State of the Union debate in 2020, though it wasn’t until June of last year that von der Leyen himself grounded it a bit more. financial Times He then pursued the objective that Brussels would pursue: a technology that would allow citizens to submit data so that they could identify themselves to administrations and organizations.

The premise is really simple. In something as important and essential as a citizen’s identity comes sophistication in all the technology needed to guarantee security. Imagine being able to be in one place, Your driver’s license, your ID, and even your title and diploma To streamline your online processes across the continent.

According to a Spanish startup promoting this technology, this will be the digital ‘portfolio’ of Europe’s identity in 2022.

In this way it is possible to envision a future in which users do not need to subscribe to services such as Spotify, Netflix, Apple or Google: they will be Big technology companies should subscribe to Identity of your customers.

To answer this desire, there are a number of technologies that dispute an intense race that makes the Old Continent one of those who are most deeply delving into this concept of digital identity. one such technology is based on blockchain and gets the name of Sovereign Digital Identity, although its abbreviation in English is SSI.

Irene Hernández is the CEO and founder of Gataca, a Spanish startup of American origin: she studied at MIT and the company is the result of a By-product that he began his research and study. The firm is a leader in the development and research of SSI, has been working on its digital wallet for years and is now preparing a pilot for the EU.

in an interview with Business Insider Spain Hernandez explains how this intensely technical race that’s been going on in Brussels for a few months now is happening.

technology race

The pursuit of the technology portfolio with which Brussels wants citizens and companies to be able to identify themselves with all EU member states has its roots in the 2014 regulation. eIDAS regulationEnglish acronym for the European system of recognition of electronic identity.

The proposal came after a public consultation that the commission took up between July and October 2020. The European Parliament assigned the Committee of Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) to take charge of it, with a Croatian Social Democrat named in its synergy in the Chamber. Romana Jerkovic.

What this proposal of the Commission proposes is right Review the EIDAS Regulation To introduce an obligation for EU countries to: States will have to guarantee these and provide them digital wallet for citizens and businesses. Citizens and companies can optionally use them, but countries must ensure they are introduced.

An expert on the Civil Guard to consider the dangers of the metaverse said: “Things will arise against civilians, whether they have already been called crimes or not”.

“It will be mandatory for member countries to issue digital walletAlthough it will be optional for citizens to use it, “Gataca CEO Hernandez asserts himself. It caused quite a stir as it is a significant change in digital infrastructure that must be done in record time.”

Although Ursula von der Leyen suggested in June 2021 that these systems could be up and running as soon as this year – and even Spain has entered into an agreement with Germany to launch pilots in this regard. Cooperation agreement signed, of which this time has not been made. Brussels is more complicated.

In February of this year, a first document was published explaining “high-level specifications on what a digital identity portfolio should be”. That framework, released in February, did not feature such terms. blockchain In SSI, Opening the door Any analog technology can do the job.

However, as Gataka himself explains on his blog, “Although the document does not explicitly refer to the concept of sovereign identity, it does outline the concepts and its purpose generally coincides with the vision and mission of SSI. , emphasizes privacy, control of their user’s own data and ease of use”.

first tender

Part of the Gataka team, the Spanish startup that develops wallets with sovereign identity.

With these vicks, the whole of Europe is looking at the technological horizon of digital identity systems. For this reason, the commission has also started tenders. One of the 37 million euros is looking for projects and pilots to experiment with these future applications and use cases Digital Wallet.

In fact, Gataka itself participates in a consortium that is working on the development of these pilots: the union, called Digital credentials for EuropeIn areas like social security or education—the use of all this technology, along with agreed-upon standards—is willing to test.

But for these pilots to happen, we’ll have to wait until Europe has at least a prototype purse hey digital walletWhich is also being tendered. Hernandez emphasized that, with this recruitment, the development of a “reference portfolio” is sought so that countries can use it in these pilots.

What Brussels does not want is for “all efforts of countries to focus on development”. digital wallet Then to make your own pilot. the commission will offer purse to make a pilot, but it is not expected that the commission will keep purse for later civilian use.

“Every country will decide If you build your portfolio with reference to the portfolio offered by Brussels and that will be open source“. After the pilots and necessary tests have been carried out, and the EIDAS regulation reform is confirmed, each state will be in charge of developing its own portfolio to offer it to citizens.

Bidding for the pilots ends in August, while the deadline to develop that digital wallet prototype expired a few weeks ago. In October, the definitive outline will be published how digital wallet And, in the first quarter of 2024, the prototype of the Commission’s portfolio will become operational.

In other words: the community executive expects the winner of the tender to develop this technical system in just one year. “These are ambitious deadlines. We have spent 3 years developing our purse And still is,” recognizes Irene Hernandez.

great challenges

“The EIDAS regulation, as a regulatory framework, cannot be prescriptive to a single technology”, recognizes Irene Hernandez. Sovereign Identity Technology (SSI) adoption may not increase based on the improvement of criteria blockchain,

But this is no hindrance to the existence of an initiative at the community level that brings together all the countries of the Union, Norway and Liechtenstein to share cross-border experiences on the development and deployment of services. blockchain, has been nominated EBSIEuropean Blockchain Services Infrastructure, and has been in operation since 2018.

la ebsi Advocate for that SSI technology, which Gataka also points out that one of its biggest challenges will be to guarantee interoperability between states. That an Italian citizen’s wallet also serves to identify himself to the community, German or Portuguese organizations.

“from my point of view, Interoperability is the biggest challenge. Setting up a national digital identity system is complicated, especially with the years we’ve been talking about. In these systems, 2 things must prevail: security and usability. As soon as 1 out of 2 fails, the system ceases to be valid”, highlights the CEO of Gataka.

It exemplifies this with electronic DNI. It’s safer “but less usable”, because a hardware Which almost no one has, so the usefulness is reduced. “But if you make it usable and the system has the same vulnerability, the system is no longer reliable.” “That,” he insists, “is the first challenge at the national level.” The second is to ensure that cross-border interactivity.

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“When you try to make it on a European scale, you realize that Every country has different rules. There are European structures, yes, but each state has its own characteristics. In Germany, for example, you cannot have a unique identifier for life. Various local regulations should be brought into uniformity,” he explains.

Hernandez explains that the wallet concept comes precisely from SSI technology, a development that will be important even in the face of the potential rise of the metaverse: “Without a doubt, we have already seen a lot of movement with the topic. We have already defined that the world of Web3 will be one of our target markets.”

In short, “outside the regulatory realm”, that would be the Web3 world. SSI early adopter On Large scale. Not just for the metaverse: “The whole DeFi or NFT world has started claiming identity layer solutions.” Web3 will need ways to identify users “But with all the privacy guarantees”Which is one of the principles of sovereign identity.

With Europe’s quest for the digital identity of its citizens, the old continent is becoming one of the most advanced regions in the world in the adoption of technological solutions.

“It’s by far the most advanced, but it’s not the only one,” Hernandez explains. “Canada has some provinces, including Ontario, where there are already a few different pilots and use cases, and there are already Negotiations between Canada and Europe”. In Latin America too, he points out, although these advances are promoted by a private entity, the Inter-American Development Bank.