Most of my consulting work consists of advisory, planning and delivery services in identity management. So it is no surprise that one of my interests is in seeing how the Pan-Canadian Identity Management & Authentication Strategy can be applied to a variety of IdM projects. This strategy holds promise for the future development of a national identity framework, one that can cross government jurisdictions and programs.
The Task Force that developed the strategy established a clear vision:
The overarching vision of the Task Force has been a Pan-Canadian IdM&A Framework that supports access by citizens and businesses to a seamless, cross-jurisdictional, user-centric, multi-channel service delivery experience when interacting with government.
For those of us (all of us?) that have had dealings with federal, provincial and municipal governments, this is clearly an ambitious vision. It is fair to say that even working within a single government department today — let alone across jurisdictions — is not seamless and rarely is it multi-channel. When working between different government departments we encounter a patch-work of online, phone and in-person services that require us to present identification at each step and in inconsistent ways. Improvements in these areas are clearly in our best interest as citizens and tax payers.
The Pan-Canadian vision promotes standards collaboration. There must be a basis for establishing ‘trusted, collaborative relationships across jurisdictions’, and only through agreed-to standards can we make this goal a reality. This is particularly true in the high-value online service delivery channel. Identities for use with applications that require high levels of identity assurance must be well supported by issued organizations to be effective in a cross-jurisdictional use case.
The vision also recognizes the importance of leveraging existing IdM infrastructures — clearly many jurisdictions (and departments within) have IdM services in place that can be adapted and leveraged. The Pan-Canadian vision does not compel organizations to discard functioning systems, and this shows up in one of the service delivery design principles:
The ability to leverage existing infrastructure and the increased interoperability of systems.
So how does such a vision get realized? How does a country that is famous for regionalism and inter-jurisdictional disputes move towards a unified and collaborative model?
- First, governments can improve the chances of realizing this vision by making identity management a priority. In a country as prosperous as ours, the issue is rarely funding but rather one of priority. Establishing that e-government and e-business need IdM to fuel economic and social development in Canada is key to moving forward.
- Second, the momentum that we are now seeing in implementing the Pan-Canadian strategy needs to be maintained. In-flight projects need to be completed, new ones identified and communications between all parties increased. Flexibility in the establishment of standards — recognizing differences and allowing for variances — is necessary if all parties are going to participate fully.
- Finally, the standards that emerge from the project work need to be quickly codified and become mandatory for inter-jurisdictional transactions. I realize that ‘quickly’ is a relative term, but we can’t be talking about standards development five years from now — we need the basic standards and protocols established in the next 12 months if we are going to catch up to what the rest of the world is doing.
A vision of a seamless, cross-jurisdictional, user-centric, multi-channel service delivery experience is very much in the ‘go big or go home’ category — and now that governments are starting to become engaged in the execution of the Pan-Canadian strategy, it will be interesting to see how the resulting solutions match up to this ambitious vision.