British passport

Our world is now driven by online transactions. From finding a home, to securing a place in a local school, to booking a summer holiday, things that may have taken hours, days, or weeks just over a decade ago can now be accomplished with only a few clicks, writes Laura Barrowcliff, Head of Strategy and Customer Insight at GBG

This shift of services online is underpinned by the ability to prove users’ identity. For a lot of people, especially digital natives,  proving we are who we say we are will be a pretty intuitive process, but that is not the case for everyone. Even in 2023, more than a billion people worldwide have no official proof of identity, according to the World Bank. Given that proving and trusting digital identities is now central to how we live, work, socialise, buy, rent, and borrow, this risks creating a two-tier system, with some people unable to perform tasks and access services that many of us will take for granted.

Why identity matters

Difficulty proving identity and using identity systems disproportionately affects members of specific groups. Women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ communities, people with disabilities, and those on low incomes are some of the groups at greater risk of being left behind. We cannot allow this to happen.

The growing requirement for digital identity solutions to enable access to a wide range of goods and services presents us with a huge challenge when it comes to ensuring nobody finds themselves frozen out of society. It also presents us with real opportunities to design solutions and capabilities that are inclusive to as many people as possible.

As well as being the right thing to do from a societal perspective, it also makes sound economic sense. The economic value that more widespread adoption of digital identity can unlock allows companies to widen their target audience as well as enable much faster customer onboarding, which in turn can drive greater revenue. In fact, research conducted by McKinsey predicted extending full digital ID coverage could unlock economic value equivalent to 3 – 13% of GDP in 2030.

Change is happening

Across the technology industry, people are waking up to the necessity and value of creating truly inclusive digital identity systems but there is still more to be done. Work is currently underway to develop a cross-industry code of conduct that will help providers to design and deliver solutions that work equally for the diverse consumers that they are designed to serve. It’s a potentially game changing project that could have life changing transformative consequences for many, if realised.

The non-profit Women in Identity is leading the charge when it comes to addressing both the human and economic impact of identity exclusion, with a focus on financial services. Its vision includes a set of principles which are tailored to the digital identity industry alongside a practical implementation framework that organisations can use throughout all phases of the product lifecycle.

The need for diversity

It’s brilliant to see change happening but, put simply, change starts with ensuring the people designing digital identity solutions represent those who use them, which is why increasing diversity in the workforce is so vital. As the need for inclusion and diversity in the creation of identity solutions has increased, there is also growing recognition that we need to find expert leaders with both the skills and life experiences to steward the industry through this next highly exciting phase of more inclusive growth.