Unlocking the Potential of Digital Credentials: the myLaminin manifesto
Can blockchain deliver massive improvements in operational efficiency, mitigate fraud, and deliver greater convenience for clients?
In an age of ‘open governments’, it’s ironic that 120 countries around the world still adhere to the 1961 Hague Apostille Convention -- an agreement inked over 60 years ago -- to govern the exchange of foreign public documents and credentials across borders. The processes the convention requires can best be described as time-consuming, inconvenient, and expensive. It is also a model ripe for innovation. I say this not only as a technology entrepreneur but as someone who has moved from one country to another - and back again - and experienced the inconveniences of paper-based document exchange firsthand, numerous times over.
I believe individuals should be able to control their personal information. I also believe governments and private sector organizations exist to serve their citizens and clients. They should enable, rather than hinder, them in fulfilling their personal aspirations. I believe most of you would agree.
And yet, we still spend an extraordinary amount of time chasing and pushing paperwork to confirm our identity, residency status, and citizenship or addressing various eligibility criteria for one program or another.
Eligibility determination is both a government and private sector function. The need to present or share personal documents and credentials is a universal activity. These activities become more challenging when we change our address. It is even more frustrating and time-consuming when we move out of province or state, or worse, to another country, and are required to present credentials we have been issued by the government to other government departments (think passport or social insurance numbers as an example). And it’s far worse if we lose our personal documents in a catastrophic event as a result of a natural disaster.
It is now possible to get electronic versions of these credentials. We can attach them to a requesting organization’s web form. We can take pictures of or scan these credentials and attach them to an email. Then we forward them to those requesting our certificates. We take it on faith that the recipients of our documents will handle them securely and are not vulnerable to data breaches. It’s an improvement, but a marginal one and essentially electronically duplicates the current paper-based process (minus the filing in triplicate).
Consider as well, the follow-on activities of those institutions with whom we have shared our credentials. They either take it on faith that the credentials we present are legitimate (not forged), or they have to invest effort, and resources – perhaps through external service providers – to confirm and validate their authenticity. Unfortunately, there is always some level of fraudulent activity that exists and can be expected.
Our mission at myLaminin is to help the private and public sector, entities that have shared interests and common clients, unlock the value in all the digital credentials issued to clients. We believe the opportunity for organizations to operate more openly and transparently is under-realized. We believe individuals should be the owners and custodians of their personal information. And we believe we can achieve all this with a higher level of security by leveraging blockchain technology.
To realize this mission, we must do two things:
Adopt a state-of-the-art approach to document verification and transference, and
Deliver a highly convenient, secure, and trustworthy paradigm for clients, businesses, and governments.
If we achieve these goals, we can realize massive improvements in scale and efficiency in the way documents are issued, handled, exchanged, and verified, and dramatically reduce the risk of fraud within our document exchange business processes, which are at the core of most eligibility determination functions.
Imagine a next-generation document verification platform that leverages distributed ledger technologies. In this scenario, network participants (defined as credential and document issuing institutions and individuals that own these documents) always have access to the most current and trusted version of a client’s credentials. By eliminating the copy/share/file paperwork nightmare, we can realize significant operational efficiencies, greater security, tangible business outcomes, and greater client satisfaction. Currently available blockchain technologies have matured to the point where they can deliver on that promise in both private and public blockchain paradigms.
Organizations adopting a next-generation document verification platform can also achieve massive service delivery efficiencies. Just think about all the manual paper-pushing associated with data migration and reconciliation between systems, departments, and organizations. Operating models would not merely be tweaked but completely re-engineered to take advantage of the operational certainties provided by these new technologies. The provision of a secure and immutable platform that can deliver a consolidation of ‘systems of record’ can deliver organizational ‘master data’ that would reduce fraud and audit control requirements.
And perhaps most important of all, we can finally put individuals in charge of their personal credentials. Just imagine how convenient, fast, and simple it would be and the frustration that could be eliminated that is associated with lost documents, renewals, and government cross-department ‘misunderstandings.’
We can all do better. The private sector, governments at all jurisdictional levels, and society at large need to come together to address this painful level of friction and the cycle of errors we have come to accept as the ‘norm’ when sharing our credentials.
Unlocking the potential digital credentials will not be easy. If that were so, the problem would already have been solved. But proven blockchain technology now exists to streamline and improve the secure exchange of credentials.
The time has finally come to say goodbye to the 1961 Hague Apostille Convention. Let’s together explore a more modern, more effective, and efficient paradigm.