Can online identity ever be truly inclusive?

Everyone should have the ability to prove their identity online and offline. But at the same time, our rapidly emerging digital world should be fully inclusive. Join us in exploring whether online identity can ever be truly inclusive.

Yes, says George, The Fraud Prevention Guru

Just look at how far our online world has come in the past 20 years – and consider where it will be in 20 years from now.

The technology jumps we’ve seen, driven largely by the mass-adoption of smart phones, tablets and hand-held devices has seen several generations of customers almost simultaneously get connected online and continue to stay ‘always-on’.

In all likelihood the trend from here on will be for more and more people to get engaged online, especially given that commerce, business, banking, personal finance and government will continue to favour the vast majority who are plugged in.

This isn’t just a flight of fancy. Both the United Nations and World Bank have committed themselves to providing digital IDs to every person on the planet by 2030. Clearly it’s a very ambitious 15-year undertaking – but possible given the proliferation of mobile devices during the past 15 years.

Digital IDs, by the way, are generally defined as smart cards that are underpinned by cryptography, contain biometric information and enable proof of identity.  They’re already being used in many countries, but widespread use of them on the internet will require standardisation and seamless smartphone integration, which are yet to come – but are being promised by the UN and the World Bank.

As ever the ‘why’ is generally the most interesting point. One of the main reasons the UN and the World Bank say they’re backing the initiative is because they believe if every person has a digital ID by 2030, world politics could become more democratic as a result.

As it stands there are right now a number of innovations in ID verification for those who may not feel they’re included in the emerging online world. That’s anything from validation via a selfie, using a mobile phone for verification, or some form of personalised electronic token.

The innovations that are underway will have an impact on online identity inclusiveness and also offer more choice and a better experience for everyone.

We have a future vision of our society being able to actively manage their virtual identities to create a solid, safe and secure digital proxy of themselves.

It’s going to be fully inclusive, it’s not so far away and it’s inevitable.

No, says Penny, The Identity Verification Master

Inclusiveness is critical and it’s vital we always ensure all-comers are catered for when it comes to online identity verification.

Many segments of society are still dependent on traditional means of identity validation and are likely to be for the foreseeable future. Therefore, simply relying on virtual authentication means we are still likely to exclude far too many people. In fact, it’s fair to say even missing one person, is one too many.

Consider who may get left out – 18 to 25-year-olds who may have a modest credit footprint – so-called thin files. Add to that the older generation and new to country arrivals. Other segments which may be inadvertently excluded could include parolees, ex-prisoners and the unbanked.

As a society it’s vital all demographics are included. While younger tech-savvy segments may favour the digital world, new innovations don’t necessarily suit everyone.

Some people may actively choose not to use online or mainstream digital systems – so they must be catered for. Others may be unable to use the online systems due to disabilities, lack of confidence or lack of know how. We also need to ensure we cater for those who can’t, or simply won’t, engage online out of choice.

With that in mind, it’s fair to say that, for the foreseeable future, online identities are unlikely to be truly inclusive, simply because there will always be a cohort that deliberately chooses to opt out of the status quo.

By definition, efforts should be made to look out for and cater to their needs and favoured preferences. As a responsible ID provider it’s a moral imperative.