The quest for global digital identification by Tom Barrett on Unsplash

The quest for a global digital identity

A global digital identity could be the answer and the start to a global unison on various different fronts. But, can this happen?

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Identity is one of the few remaining personal possessions which is bound to get revolutionized by technology.  By the time we reach the closure of the next decade, we would have a very different perception of our identities. It’d be digital. Sure! But, we will have many more elements of our identities.

Identity is one of the few remaining personal possessions which is bound to get revolutionized by technology. By the time we reach the closure of the next decade, we would have a very different perception of our identities. It’d be digital. Sure! But, we will have many more elements of our identities.

It will include aspects of our lives like our shopping experiences, our travel preferences, our education, our career, our nationality, and maybe even our planet.

Most countries are rooting for a digital identity for their citizens right now. According to Biometric Update, over half the world population will have government-issued identities by 2024. An estimated 5 Billion people in different countries will boast a digital identity. Considering that this number stands at 1.7 Billion right now. The sharp upswing of the number will be facilitated by mobile biometrics.

Estonia was the first country to invest in a country-wide identity scheme two decades ago. This system stands at a whopping 98% coverage of the population by the latest count. 

India, in its right, had a wild swing with the Aadhaar system. It is now one of the largest efforts ever in terms of the number of people to have implemented digital identity. More than 1.3 Billion people have been enrolled to date.

Many other countries all over the world are pitching in with their own identity systems. And why not? There are presumably great benefits to a system like this. It makes identification a breeze, governance swift, and distribution of schemes instant.

The call for a broader idea for an identity

Digital identity is not just an identifier any entity hands over to a person. It is much more than that. Every single account anyone holds online with any company, website, or organization, is a digital identifier. And, ultimately adds to what you could be identified with. Eventually becoming your identity.

It records your necessary credentials and knows how you weigh in compared to others in the system. It may be used to help you in ordering food, meeting new friends online, finding a new job, connecting with your loved ones across the oceans, and storing valuable communications.

But, the breadth of these profiles online adds up to digital identity. One can have different personas on LinkedIn and Facebook and Google. They all have data about a person, different kinds of data. Patterns which distinguish one from another. It helps these systems sell different kinds of products to different people. These are not just physical products.

This is a race for digital prominence and global digital identity. Different collectives are driving the front. The more data any organization has on anybody, the better they could help all of you, and the better they would be able to monetize.

Governments are no different. They want all the information on a person to be in one place, which will help them understand you better. Help them make policies and decisions for the masses better. Sell governments to the populus better.

Global digital identity is a goal most organizations are heading towards. Super apps are emerging in different countries, which can help you pretty much do everything from a single login. These are super systems that are banking on digital identities. One can buy products, order food, bank, book a cab, even sell used goods through a single app. These are silos of digital data on people and will value much more than the service they provide online.

Yuval Noah Harari puts it dramatically correct when he says that the authority (global authority) is shifting away from humans to algorithms. A change that will have us all challenge our existence and reshape our identities. 

“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.”

 Chuck Palahniuk 

This is very true for the psychological identity one has, but the digital identities will include all of the above and more.

The obvious upside and inevitability

These identities have helped us build the lives we live in today. Social networks like Instagram and Facebook help build our social identities. LinkedIn helps us build our career identity. Amazon helps shape our lives with the products we use daily. Which eventually helps shape our identities as well. Our national identity helps us get around the world easier than it has ever been possible. The quest for global digital identity is a real one. And the fact is that most governments are far far behind than some of the big organizations we have talked about.

But this is a good thing, and it is bound to accelerate. There would be less faking of identity. People would work for what they feel identifies them as individuals.

A true global identity owned and served by a single entity could very well be a thing of fiction. Something which we all can see happening but might not come true. There would be people dreading it, but the reality somehow interests us. It is tough, no doubt. But something which is looming around the corner.

The reality of different organizations racing for it is one of the biggest reasons it will never happen. Governments will have little say if any of them win and take over. Till then, the identities we have can have different forms and different logins.

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