IdentityNorth predicts the future of digital identity in health care, payments

This week, IdentityNorth returned to Toronto to connect Canadian and international leaders discussing Canada’s role in the digital identity and authentication space. For over 300 attendees, IdentityNorth was a chance to learn about the ideas driving Canada’s digital future.

Speaking with BetaKit, Aran Hamilton, the chair of IdentityNorth, said the conference aims to educate people about digital IDs and the solutions Canadian startups and organizations are developing in this space. He added that the Digital ID and Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC) is continuing to help catalyze action and collaboration between the public and private sectors to enable unique and secure digital ID experiences.

“Our private sector is learning more quickly from the public sector about privacy, about expectations around user experiences that are secure, trusted, robust, and scalable.”

“Our private sector is learning more quickly from the public sector about privacy, about expectations around user experiences that are secure, trusted, robust, and scalable,” said Hamilton. “Likewise, the public sector is learning more quickly from the private sector about greater user experiences, how to make sure it’s available when it should be available, and how do you make it convenient to use. I think what we’re seeing is a really interesting cross-pollination of ideas, opportunities, and experiences and opportunities between the private sector and the public sector faster than anywhere else in the world.”

This year, IdentityNorth featured a series of panels that highlighted how Canada can create a data framework that works for citizens, businesses, and the government; the applications of digital ID solutions in different sectors; and the challenges that come with these applications; and opportunities for startups.

In a panel about how Canada can set up its organizations and businesses to think “citizen-first” while developing digital ID solutions, Balraj Dhillon, director of eHealth Ontario, pointed out the importance of making information available to citizens. Dhillon said that while there are various applications for digital ID solutions in the healthcare sector, it is crucial for organizations like eHealth Ontario to make health data available to both healthcare providers and citizens.

“What we’re working on is, how do we take that data and make it available to healthcare providers in a single sign-on experience? How do we leverage identities to access additional healthcare applications, applications that might be issued by Cancer Care Ontario, Ontario Telemedicine? said Dhillon. “So we’re really focused on getting access to that data for physicians so that we can get those physicians looking at that data which is more for the outcomes of the Ontario citizens and patients in Ontario.”

Colleen Boldon, director at Digital Lab and Digital Identity at Service New Brunswick, agreed that it is important for governments, businesses, and organizations to think “citizen-first” when trying to move services online and develop digital ID solutions.

“We’re starting to understand data at the core, customer journeys, and how we can look at data as a corporate asset as opposed to a siloed asset,” said Boldon. “The old government way is to protect [data] on your own turf and home for all kinds of reasons, but that has to change. There’s a whole other piece that we’ve tried to tackle in cultural change, new skills, and part of it is this whole citizen-first, citizen journey, whether you call it citizen design, UX design, there’s a whole new thing that we have to embrace when we stand up services, whether it’s online or on a telephone. We have to do it better.”

In another panel, Suzan Denoncourt, managing director at Ingenico Group Canada, and Pierre Roberge, the CTO and senior vice president of solutions and innovation at Prodigy Ventures, highlighted the potential applications for digital ID and authentication in the payments space. Denoncourt explained how consumers are used to “tap-to-pay” experiences, but they are moving towards a concept called “tap-to-ID,” which could enable secure and trustworthy transactions for consumers.

“We’re used to having an inordinate amount of security built into our payment infrastructure in Canada and worldwide,” said Denoncourt. “I think when you’re bringing in the digital ID here, you’re going to see the ability to generate the digital receipt, which is absent today in any digital-only experience. We don’t want to have to hold onto the printer to make sure we get that receipt, but also the ability to identify who the consumer is for whatever purposes. The extra measure of security and being able to provide some digital ID at the same time as a transaction is going to be huge in elevating the role of security.”

“It goes without saying that security and simple user experiences are required. You have to solve for both.”
– Neil Butters, director of payment technology, Interac

In a panel about the economic landscape shaping Canada’s digital ID story, Neil Butters, the director of payment technology at Interac, stressed how digital ID is a complex area to work in, especially in relation to financial transactions, because of the challenges around validating or verifying people’s real identities. Butters said the crucial way to address this challenge is by ensuring that Canadians are developing secure and trusted solutions that provide consumers with control and convenience, while giving them confidence in using digital ID systems.

“Some elements that we consider important [include] designing with layers of security and privacy,” said Butters. “It goes without saying that security and simple user experiences are required. You have to solve for both. Security and great UXs are not mutually exclusive. Some attributes that we would expect again include abstraction of the identity to provide a protective barrier. We need to get into more of a dynamic data authentication paradigm to make restrictions placed on the channel and tested each time the credentials are used and to ensure that it’s being used within the boundaries we’ve set.”

To strengthen Canada’s position in the digital ID and authentication space and to tackle challenges surrounding digital ID, IdentityNorth’s organizers stressed the importance of educating Canadians about what it means to have a digital ID and continuing to give startups across Canada the opportunity to develop effective solutions.

“We’ve seen a couple of the provinces really stepping up to start offering services backed by digital ID and authentication,” said Hamilton. “Those kinds of investments and the public information programs that they roll out are helping, but the key is I think every time we hear about a breach or some kind of an issue in technology, we need to probably not just assume that that’s the way it has to be, we need to look for those solutions. A lot of the best solutions are being built here in Canada, and we need to seek out those solutions and actually implement them.”

Photo via Twitter


Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi is a staff writer and content creator at BetaKit with a strong interest in Canadian startup, business, and legal tech news. In her free time, Amira indulges in baking desserts, working out, and watching legal shows.

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