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The first year of ToIP

In the last few months there has been a tremendous interest in the topic of verifiable credentials and how they play a significant role in reopening business, commerce, trade and our everyday lives. Along with this there have been innumerable opinion pieces, op-eds, tweets and the rush of podcasts and papers attempting to analyze aspects of upsides and downsides of adopting such measures. In this din what we have not paused to appreciate is how we have naturally gravitated towards accepting the notion that trust at scale using digital systems is possible and is crucial to reduce the friction in everyday life.

It is already a year since Dhiway joined a small group of companies to be part of the founding members at the Trust over IP Foundation. While the early days were heady with promise and a lot of time was invested in figuring out how the initial Work Groups would kick start the tasks, things have changed substantially since then. The mainstream media has taken notice of the potential of digital credentials and have been able to produce a consistent volume of reports. While some of the reports tend to swing between hope and dystopia, the real work to make digital credentials ubiquitous is what the Working Groups have been focusing on. 

For 2021 and likely a while beyond there is now a set of deliverables called the ‘Big 4’. Putting in place this roadmap was a consensus driven effort across the members participating in the various WGs. The intent is to allocate energy, focus and efforts to initiatives that are best positioned to take the mission forward. The topic of digital trust on the internet is not just about enabling verifiable credentials. It involves being able to produce well understood templates and playbooks which new organizations and businesses can adopt for a quick on-ramp. Digital trust is a massive network-of-networks and the positive externalities emerge through interactions. Trust is associated with risks and helping individuals and organizations navigate through this duality is what makes our participation in Trust over IP worthwhile.

As the operational aspects and project management topics at Trust over IP Foundation become more structured, we believe it would be important to think of regional focus. For very obvious reasons North America and Europe lead the charge on a range of activities around digital identity and verifiable credentials. And we are seeing a different set of opportunities emerging in India and around the APAC region. There is a hybrid system at play here – a mix of big government projects and then a set of somewhat smaller domain specific deployments. It is entirely possible that the critical need at this stage is the availability of easily understood and replicated modular systems that allow for better and durable implementation. We think that ToIP is uniquely positioned to create a ‘pull’ for these players from the regions to be active consumers and contributors to ToIP. There is however a need to demonstrate the exponential value which is created from joining ToIP and being able to adopt and adapt ongoing work to meet the demands from these regions.

Trust at scale is a difficult end outcome to pull off. To do this effectively there has to be a well thought out public-private partnership with a steering role of the government. It is important to evaluate this approach – of state incentivised innovation through policy decisions and large ‘mission mode’ projects. One way to continue to push ahead on this as a strategy is to be able to provide deep expertise based inputs and comments to strategy documents which are published. As an example, the recently published ‘Draft National Strategy for Blockchain’ is one which is well suited to respond with a position paper or a technical paper. Organizations such as ToIP have the collective wisdom to be able to respond to such opportunities as they come about. The cohesive effort which resulted in responding to the consultation for Ontario is an example that this is possible as well as within the scope of what ToIP desires to do.

The critical factor determining the trajectory of ToIP’s growth in APAC is advocacy. To be able to articulate in simple terms the specific foundational aspects of ToIP’s deliverables allows for the organization to be looked at as a knowledge partner for expert guidance and consultation. As the various countries formulate plans around decentralization and disintermediation of services and data stores it is necessary to factor in the ethical usage of technology along with the durable standards which enable resilience. Trust frameworks which build on fundamental solid principles are key towards citizen centric services.

It has taken a COVID-19 pandemic to create a renewed interest in the intersection of technology, surveillance, privacy, ethics and equity. The members at ToIP bring in the level of expertise which allows for reasoned, practical and pragmatic approaches towards policy making and creation of infrastructure. It is important to keep in mind that all that is being enabled by technology exists to serve individuals and that the human experience is something that cannot be neglected or ignored.

Dhiway has been committing capacities and resources to various efforts within ToIP to help establish the idea that trust is the fulcrum around which transactions scale. And we view the world as a growing set of ecosystems – interacting, intersecting and integrating with each other. 2021 is likely to be a year of a lot of activity at the Trust over IP Foundation and Dhiway continues to be involved in all efforts which are designed to grow this community.

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