Addressing digital identity: What it means for our personal data, breaches and digital divides

A blog post by David Morrison, InternetNZ’s Commercial Director

In a world of ever increasing data breaches and abuse of personal data, I believe we will see a growing public awareness of the importance of our personal data. With this awareness will develop a demand for a new way to engage with online services where trust is at the core.

So is there a new wave in digital identity coming? I think so. 2020 is the year we will see practical and tangible activities to explore how to shape an identity ecosystem for New Zealand. This will be a key enabler of more efficient and trusted engagement with the online services we rely on every day. 

DigtialIdentity.nz formed in late 2018 and through 2019 built a substantial membership of organisations passionate about enabling effective digital identity solutions in New Zealand. Additionally, the Department of Internal Affairs Digital Identity Transition Programme progressed its work in 2019 to “create the right environment, set the right rules and take advantage of new technologies to give New Zealand citizens secure digital identification that meet their evolving needs and expectations”.

2019 was a foundational year for Digital Identity in New Zealand and activity in 2020 will build on this. Digital Identity NZ will build momentum for their vision “to be a country where people can express their identity using validated and trusted digital means in order to fully participate in a digital economy and society”. 

Digital Identity solutions for our future need to embrace essential concepts where data use is minimised. Users must have sovereignty over their data; how it is used and can revoke data use when they choose. For these concepts to become a reality, new standards, technologies and solutions need to be developed. The positive news is that this is already happening. From new identity standards through to practical experiments exploring identity use cases, we will see new identity services take shape.

However, achieving this identity nirvana is not without challenges, and an important barrier is digital inclusion. We need to eliminate the obstacles that prevent citizens accessing the Internet and ensure the right skills and motivation exist to make the most of this access. InternetNZ sees this as a key strategic goal - as does the Government.

There is a lot of work being done by the Government, and organisations like ourselves, to help resolve the digital divide as we all understand how big a concern it is, and what it may mean to the future of New Zealand and everyone living here.

Families in rural locations with limited or no access to the Internet are hindered with so many services making the move to a digital presence, and that’s if they have access to a computer or smartphone at all. It may seem unthinkable if you look down any street in Auckland or Wellington, but it’s the reality for many New Zealanders.

Age can also play a big part in this divide. Technology changes so fast that it can be hard to keep up, especially if there’s no easily accessible support, and this is a reality many of our elderly are coming to realise.

There are other examples but its proof that more work needs to be done to bridge the digital divide and ensure we have an Internet for all New Zealanders. This allows everyone the same chance and access to goods, services, information and everything else the Internet has to offer.

So, 2020 I see as the year we will see the emergence of new identity solutions and practical use cases to enable more trusted and secure online experiences.

Further predictions for the Internet in 2020 can be read here: 2020 vision: our Internet predictions