Posts tagged ‘covid’

July 31, 2020

Empowering individuals to be active participants in the global data ecosystem


“Data can be your friend when it’s in the right hands, and the right hands are yours.”

For way too long we’ve been talking about the need to build a new type of global data ecosystem that puts the individual at the center and gives them greater access to and control of their own data. It’s not about monetization, which presents its own set of privacy and ethical challenges, but rather giving individuals access to the data that is being collected about them, and the agency to choose how they want that data to be used, including sharing it with other parties if they so choose, but in a way that is highly privacy preserving.

While progress over the last few years has been a bit of a mixed bag, I do see light at the end of the tunnel and a growing sense that the tide is turning. In the last couple of years I’ve been exploring the role of decentralized identity in helping to realize a new human-centric data ecosystem, following activities at the w3c where they’ve been developing and publishing standards, such as the DID specification and Verifiable Credentials data model, that will help make this happen.

So what’s changed?

In recent months, as the world has been grappling with the Coronavirus, we’ve seen increasing calls for the exchange of personal data to help manage the spread of the disease, and the response to these calls has been drastically different across the globe, with some countries taking a centralized, data aggregation approach, and others going the decentralized model where all data resides on an individual’s phone and any data exchange is deidentified and consent-driven. This move towards decentralization and privacy-preserving technology is fundamentally changing the landscape.

Thankfully Ireland has not let me down and has gone the decentralized route, with a hugely successful Covid Tracker that has been broadly adopted, so much so that the Irish government has released the code into open source as one of the Linux Foundation Public Health‘s first open source project. Decentralization and privacy-preserving technologies are starting to gain real traction, and their benefits being understood.

So why am I back writing again, after a very long hiatus, and talking about decentralization? Because I’m excited :-) My passion project of the last couple of years will soon be releasing, so I’ve got lots to talk about.

The offering is called the IBM Digital Health Pass, a decentralized identity solution that enables secure, trusted, peer-to-peer, privacy-preserving, and verifiable data exchange that allows all of us to be our own data controllers, if we so choose. Over the coming months I will be writing a series of blog posts that introduce you to the philosophy, technology, use cases, share why I am so excited about this project and, most importantly, why I believe it establishes a win-win for all participants in the data ecosystem; organization, government, and most importantly citizen.

From the archives…

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