On August 31, 2017, the Illinois Blockchain Initiative (IBI), a collaboration sponsored by the state of Illinois to explore blockchain innovation, announced a partnership with digital identity company Evernym in an effort to put birth certificates on a blockchain.
According to the IBI, the project will meld together the work from W3C's Verifiable Claims Task Force, which is focused on making third party verified claims more secure on the web, and Sovrin Foundation's distributed identity ledger technology. The IBI seeks to generate "self-sovereign" digital identities that remain under an individual's control, capable of quick and secure validation without the need for a centralized repository.
Evernym's chief trust officer Drummond Reed spoke to the efficacy of digitally backed documents. "Digitizing these foundational documents in a state the size and importance of Illinois will make a major contribution to the larger effort of solving the online identity problem."
Blockchain business liaison for the IBI Jennifer O'Rourke said that identity is foundational to every government service, and acts as a basis for trust and legitimacy in the public sector. She said:
"To structurally address the many issues surrounding digital identity, we felt it was important to develop a framework that examines identity from its inception at child birth. Government has an important role to play in the development of any digital identity ecosystem."
The project will implement cryptographically signed traits as "verifiable claims." These might include a person's legal name, date of birth, gender, or blood type. A decentralized identifier will create a tamper-proof system backed by blockchain-based cryptographic protocols to stop non-permissioned access to this information. Consent to access can be provided by the identity holder or, in the case of a minor, a guardian.
Cab Morris, of the IBI and current deputy director of strategy and operational performance at the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, described the merits of combining government services with a digital identity platform. "This architecture allows us to bridge the best of both worlds, combining government’s robust infrastructure for identity verification with a platform engineered for the digital identity ecosystem. This digital identity system is extensible, inter-operable and at the same time ensures the utmost security, privacy and user-agency." He added, "Additionally, this model for digital identity can extend beyond the boundaries of government and has broad applicability for many products and services in the private sector."
The resulting efforts of this concept may produce a new means for government and private entities to perform identity authentication absent a centralized source.