Written by: Ramesh Kesanupalli Co-founder of ADI Association and Former Founder, FIDO Alliance

In Part I of the series, I talk about why we set out on this journey to create a new system for identity

We are in a moment of transition, where the line between the digital world and the real world is blurring. It will soon disappear completely. One key change will be moving away from “account-oriented” infrastructure online to a digital experience where identity is the foundation. 

In the real world we do not create our identities. They are created and provided to us by our parents, which are confirmed by a medical facility / provider when we were born, and then are certified by a government through a birth certificate of record. It is that birth certificate which seeds our identity, and provides the foundation for us to build our life.  We will be held accountable and responsible for anything that happens in the real world that is associated with this identity.

The digital world should be treated similarly. Unfortunately we can not reset the entire online identity system, so we need to come up with a framework that would help existing systems to migrate to or transform into such an ecosystem over time.   

After spending six months studying the problems of identity from both the user perspective and the perspective of the business and government, we knew we had to come up with a framework that would leverage the great work that is being done already in various forums like W3C andDIF and define a new framework. This is why we designed the ADIA Specification: it creates value for businesses and benefit for societies based on five essential goals:

  1. Make things extremely easy for the user to use
  2. Make things extremely easy for different Identity and credential issuers to embrace the new framework without their having to change infrastructure or rewrite their existing applications
  3. Make things very easy for service providers, both online and in the real world, to be able to use the new ADIA digital Identity system to eliminate fraud
  4. Include people that do not have smart devices as participants in the ADIA ecosystem 
  5. Make sure Issuers are part and parcel of the value ecosystem for providing verification assertions 

With these goals, we started putting an end-to-end architectural demo together, with the help of Kiran Addepalli, who jumped on the concept immediately and joined as the co-chair of the technical working group at ADIA, along with Alan Bachman at CVS. Kiran drove the development of the ADIA Interchange system as VP of engineering at Digital Trust Networks, and demonstrated a first implementation in September 2020   after which we kicked off the formal ADIA specification documentation process.   

This distributed system provides governments, businesses, and individuals the benefit of ease of connectivity, security, and most importantly, privacy. 

In the ADIA ecosystem, the users are on-boarded by a trusted identity source such as an educational institution, employment location, medical facility, driver’s license issuing authority, financial institution, or any of the places where they already have vetted you. 

The identity establishment will create the initial trust from personal attributes that are unique to the user and will be bound to the user with an easy-to-use, easy-to-remember alias called a “Digital Address.” This is almost like a Digital Birth Certificate. Users then will be able to attach their distributed Identities and data credentials like medical records, educational records, etc. to the Digital Address Service which is part of a collection of services called an ‘Interchange’.

The ADI Association membership is committed to developing this specification using privacy-preserving technologies and by focusing their efforts on inclusion and diversity in the community and resulting ecosystem. 

The initial specification was prepared under the guidance of Kiran Addepalli of Digital Trust Neworks, Rolf Lindemann of NokNok and we’d like to express our sincere thanks to them for their efforts. Other contributors of note are mentioned in the spec itself and we likewise thank them for their work on this first version of the specification, and look forward to further iterations going forward.

Please come and participate by joining the ADIA movement here.

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