Given Post Pandemic Digital Reliance, Ontario Releases Digital ID Tech and Standards - Identity Review | Global Tech Think Tank - Identity Review | Global Tech Think Tank

On September 8th, the Ontario provincial government, with the aid of over 100 experts, 68 private organizations and numerous roundtable discussions, announced support for a new digital ID scheme for residents. The government hopes that the digital ID will empower larger Canada’s growing digital identity ecosystem, alongside improving facility and security. The announcement comes after the Digital ID and Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC) surveyed that three-quarters of the nation’s population stands in favor of erecting a digital ID system, given the physical challenges of the pandemic and encouragement of contactless verification. It is set to release later this year.

When fully launched, the digital ID will replace citizens’ plastic government IDs—to use their new ID, residents download a digital wallet app that can be used across devices from smartphones, to laptops to tablets. Residents who already carry around a mobile device, then, have one less object to keep track of. In the case of theft or loss, government officials say the app-based version of the ID can also simply be turned off, simplifying recovery.

A Foray into Open Source Technology

Ontario’s Digital ID is just one part of the Ontario Onwards: Action Plan, a project to make Ontario one of the most advanced digital jurisdictions in the world.

“Openly sharing our technology approach to digital identity is an essential step in our plan to provide more convenient, private and secure ways to prove who you are,” says Minister Rasheed. “Today’s announcement responds directly to what we continue to hear from sector partners, stakeholders and the public – Ontario’s approach to technology needs to be ambitious, innovative and transparent.”

Questions of privacy, however, loom over the provincial government’s project. Officials are aware that potential government ownership and use of personal data can stymie support among the citizenry. “Appropriate legal, privacy and security measures will be put in place so that users feel confident that their personal information will be kept secure and their privacy will be respected,” says the provincial government. The system, for instance, notably lacks a centralized database for tracking mechanisms. But that is not the furthest extent to which they will ensure user-safety.

In an unconventional move to further mitigate this concern, the project’s website states that the ID will use emerging technology standards and, wherever possible, publicly available open source solutions. The projected technology will be based on tech standards from the World Wide Web Consortium, the Decentralized Identity Foundation, Trust Over IP Foundation, and OpenID Connect as they depend on compliance with requisite industry and legal standards. The government is also considering other standards for data modeling, signature format, data formatting, key management, and further interoperability for other online government services.

Ontario’s Broader Scope

The scheme is set to make Ontario, even among the digitally-forward provinces of Canada, one of the most technologically-advanced jurisdictions in the world. When fully mature, the ecosystem is estimated to be valued at $20 billion for Ontarian businesses, citizens and the government.

Residents who are interested in the development of the digital ID can expect it to be released near the end of 2021.


Jeffrey is a computer scientist from Stanford University focusing on Artificial Intelligence. As a Tech Innovation Fellow at Identity Review, he is exploring the implications of crypto trading, NFTs and blockchain technologies.

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