Self-sovereign identity is gaining traction: 4 new examples

Written by:

Elizabeth Melton

4 minutes

A decade ago, imagining a world without physical passports, birth certificates, or library cards was difficult.

But today, a collision of factors has made digital wallets a reality.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly everything went virtual. At the same time, GDPR and CCPA pushed governing bodies to consider privacy and give people more control over their personal data. Those two factors, combined with the explosion of blockchain technology, made self-sovereign identity (SSI) a real possibility – not just a pipedream.

But how does SSI actually work in practice?

In this post, we’ll explain self-sovereign identity in detail and share four groundbreaking examples of SSI happening worldwide.

What is self-sovereign identity?

Self-sovereign identity is a digital identity that is managed and maintained by an individual.

Everyone’s identity contains unique identifiers, such as proof of citizenship or school degrees. Since most of this information is sensitive, you want control over when you share it and who you share it with. Right now, you control those parts of your identity by opting to share (or not to share) physical pieces of paper.

But these days, we’re putting a lot of data about ourselves online, and we’d like the convenience of having a digital copy of our passport or birth certificate without worrying about our identity getting stolen.

With self-sovereign identity applications, you can safeguard your data and define sharing rules to ensure that only trusted individuals or entities access certain parts of your dataset.

How do SSI and digital wallets work?

This phenomenon is made possible by the blockchain, a decentralized network of independent servers. You, the user, upload your identity information to a digital wallet. The only way to unlock the digital keys that guard that data is to provide a digital signature, such as a fingerprint or Face ID.

Once you’ve authenticated into an SSI app, you can decide who to share pieces of your identity with. Only the receiver you’ve specified will be able to view the documents you select (and only those documents). The entire transaction is optimized for privacy – not even the SSI provider can tell what is being exchanged.

4 recent examples of SSI

Because of the increased security that SSI brings and the growing use of blockchain technology, SSI is steadily scaling and becoming more normalized. Below, we share four recent examples of SSI at work across the world.

1. Colorado’s Digital ID

The state of Colorado is one of the more progressive states when it comes to SSI. They’ve created a contactless Digital ID, a secure electronic version of a driver's license or state-issued ID card displayed on a user’s smartphone. As of December 1, 2019, the Colorado Digital ID was accepted as a legal form of personal identification for use in Colorado.

Colorado residents use their Colorado Digital IDs to prove their address and age and use them when interacting with law enforcement, state government agencies, and even TSA agents. Residents don’t even need cellular or WiFi service to pull it up. Besides its convenience, the Colorado Digital ID confers benefits for people with disabilities, informing first responders and other state personnel about potential communication barriers.

2. State of California SB-786

In September 2022, the State of California signed SB-786, an act that amends the California Health and Safety code to allow verifiable credentials and blockchain technologies to issue state records. Today, California residents can request birth, death, and marriage records via verifiable credentials. Whereas records typically take at least ten days for postal delivery, this new method gives Californians near-instant access to their documentation.

3. Ukraine’s Diia ecosystem

In 2019, Ukraine launched the Diia ecosystem to unite government-provided services for small businesses to support Ukrainian entrepreneurship domestically and in foreign markets. Users can register for and access the Diia ecosystem via the mobile app or web portal. Once in the ecosystem, users can register their small businesses, request business support, view educational materials, and complete other administrative or tax-related tasks. Over time, the Diia team has added more public services to its roster, which made the Diia app the most downloaded app in Ukraine by June 2022. Due to Diia’s resounding success, the Ministry of Digital Transformation aims to make 100% of all Ukraine public services available online by 2024. 

4. USDA Food and Farmworkers Relief Program

In 2022, the United Farmworkers Foundation (UFWF) was selected for a $100M grant from the USDA to  distribute post-pandemic relief funds to farmworkers across the country. To manage the over 130,000 applications , the UFWF partnered with Entidad, a web3 consulting agency. The team at Entidad created a verifiable credential framework to securely transact eligibility criteria and facilitate ongoing program engagements.

This involves two applications: a web app and a native smartphone app. The UFWF employees will receive, review, and approve applications and communicate with farmworkers via web app. Farmworkers will request services, upload documents, and communicate with UFWF agents via smartphone app. All of this activity is encrypted to protect everyone’s privacy and the integrity of USDA reporting.

With Entidad’s apps, the UFWF can track the entire lifecycle of their relief payments, tracking where expenses are going and where farmworkers may need more funding in the future. Entidad and the UFWF also hope to promote the adoption of the native app among farmworkers to enable other activities such as immigration applications, visa processing, job applications, and more.

SSI, farmworkers, and beyond

At Entidad, we are excited about the newfound traction in the self-sovereign identity field and the greater security, accessibility, and convenience on the horizon. Our partnership with the UFWF has enabled us to apply self-sovereign identity for the first time in the farmworker space on a massive scale. And we’re hoping that with the momentum of the Food and Farmworkers Relief Program, we can continue to encourage the adoption of SSI technologies – not only among farmworkers but other groups as well.

If you’re interested in making a difference in underserved communities, contact us. We’re looking for passionate, skilled engineers to take Entidad to the next level, and you could be our next great addition.

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Julette Martinez

CEO, Farm Worker Organization