Identity fraud is nothing new. But in the context of the pandemic, being able to prove that you are who you say you are takes on new dimensions. Health of course is the big difference.  There are likely to be many more occasions in daily life where the requirement to confirm identity and health status will become routine. Making that process as frictionless as possible is far from straightforward.

Acceptable friction

International travel is one of those instances. We all accept that the process of travelling between countries involves a degree of inconvenience, from checking-in bags to customs inspections. But it’s an amount of friction that we are willing to put up with. The rewards are worth it. Now, with the prospect of travel restarting, health status will be an additional point of friction. So-called ‘vaccine certificates’ have become a hot topic as vaccination programs roll out and people look forward to the lifting of restrictions that many have lived with for more than 12 months.

The stakes are high – the old paper vaccine certificates were mainly about you: confirming, for example, that you’d had the yellow fever vaccine and would not become ill. The focus is now on all of society: how do we make sure that someone boarding a plane isn’t a threat to everyone around them? But health certificates – in whatever form they may take– are not the panacea for solving this challenge.

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While policies are being worked out, a flexible and adaptable way to record and update information will be essential.

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How open, how quickly?

Even in countries such as Israel that are leading the world in the proportion of the volume of citizens vaccinated to date, there are still questions about when and if the total relaxation of restrictions should take place. That could be for a variety of reasons, for example if certain groups refuse to take the vaccine. So while policies are being worked out, a flexible and adaptable way to record and update information will be essential.

The business rules that use that information will also need to be flexible. That’s because we still have a lot to learn about vaccines over time. A digital rather than-paper based system will be essential. If we’re going to be required to prove our identity and health status in many more contexts post-lockdown than just at the border (getting on a bus, for example, or entering an office space), then we’ll need a solution that can be easily updated, is interoperable with different systems and provides confidence that the data it contains is secure and trustworthy.

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It seems most likely, then, that digital solutions to confirm health and identity will play a role in helping economies reopen and travel get started, but they won’t be the only decisive factor. Many of the questions about what is deemed ‘safe’ and how much risk countries are prepared to accept still have to be addressed. Trust is essential to achieving that fine balance. And a digital identity solution combined with the confirmation of health data can play its part in helping to build it. I am eager to hear your thoughts on this. Let’s connect to discuss.

Read more posts by Gerco Landman:

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Gerco Landman

Senior Manager – Consulting, Public Service, Australia & New Zealand

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