The Value of Your Digital Identity - Digi Who? Digi You

Yesterday's Mashupevent on Digital Identity was an eye opener in terms of the amount of issues, concerns and opinions triggered by this particular topic. Never mind recent buzz phrases like Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion, it looks like Digital Identity may prove be the most important one to get right first.

As you might imagine, the idea of digital identity evokes a fair amount of existential angst / hubris / umbrage, and as such it did not take long for both speakers and audience to get caught up in a psychotherapy-like word association free-for-all, featuring such key words and phrases as: trust, privacy, values, morals, tolerance, permissions, boundaries, perception, human rights and even CRM, VRM and Social Media (ok, so it’s probably a geek psychotherapist). That said, there was clearly a fair amount of knowledge and experience in the room, which made for very stimulating and informed discussion (See #Mashupevent

One thing that strikes me about the whole digital identity debate is that despite the remarkable amount of progress in creating, managing and using digital identity, businesses may be in danger of forgetting or ignoring the idea of people as contextual / dynamic beings (complete with ever-shifting moods, reactions and identities even). Perhaps this is because it is a particularly difficult challenge to overcome, especially with current limitations in technology, but rest assured that it will become even more important as people continue to expect more from the digital products and services that support their digital lifestyles.

Finally, the key question for me was a tweet asking: “What about those lacking an identity? There are many still without bank accounts or fixed addresses” by @bjh_gje. Answers anyone? Overall, it was a very interesting and informative session which was only let down by the usual time constraints of an evening session. I believe this is a topic definitely worth exploring further possibly in a full-day event devoted entirely to Digital Identity.

Comments (8)

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  • 1
    Ben Hoyle wrote on 29th Mar 2010

    Thanks for picking up the tweet!

    Even as a knowledge professional, my head swims with the amount of information I'm required to collate to verify my identity to the authorities and business. If I struggle what about those without an engineering degree?

    Often it is difficult for those within digital services (including myself) to understand, or even imagine, a non-digital world. However, it is worth remembering that only 63% of households had a broadband connection in 2009 (see www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/iahi0809.pdf).

    What worries me is that those without digital skills and a certain computer literacy will find themselves increasingly marginalised and without a voice, impairing democratic discussion in the process.

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  • 2
    Tony Fish wrote on 29th Mar 2010

    Jude

    thanks for the write up from the event - I was hoping that we would jump over the word debate but again we did not manage it. I found it interesting how some peoples' comments and questions were statements saying "follow me I know what I am talking about" and missing the point that we all come to this with differing views.

    In my book on digital footprints I explore this by creating trust, risk and privacy capital as a model - depending on experience you will take different views about how much you will engage. However, since we are still debating words and meaning there is some distance to go.

    However, I think there was general agreement that we are worth something and that our digital data is being traded.

    looking forward to the continued debate

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  • 3
    Jude wrote on 29th Mar 2010

    Ben / Tony,
    Agreed, these are defintiely themes to watch out for and perhaps address in the move towards wholesale digital inclusion.

    I can't wait to see how they get addressed / resolved in the short-medium term!

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  • 4
    Nicky Hickman wrote on 29th Mar 2010

    Great post and you are right to raise the question about those on the 'wrong' side of the digital divide. There were many such questions that it would have been great to discuss. I have two responses to this.

    Firstly, as identity is a function of context, these people still have an identity, it's just not a 'fully formed' digital one... but then not sure any of us have one of those (!)

    Secondly this really demonstrates the importance of mobile, as soon as you have a mobile 'phone, you have a digital identity, and you can use that 'mobile identity' to manage and control your online identity in the broader digital world. Recently I have been working with www.betavine.net/socialexchange on providing services to customers in emerging markets. For these customers, the only digital identity they are likely to have is a mobile 'phone. As mobile 'phones reach the parts other digital devices can't reach (even if you don't have electricity), this is a genuine option and not just a cop out from a mobile fanatic.

    For those who don't have a mobile 'phone or access to the Internet via some other means, I would point at Maslow's hierarchy of needs - food & shelter first..

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  • 5
    Jude wrote on 30th Mar 2010

    Interesting points about context and mobile as they are two major growth (or hype) topics, right alongside cloud and social networking. Perhaps the answer may well lie in some sort of affordable context aware, trusted mobile social service, based in the clouds. Think Foursquare, meets M-Pesa, meets Facebook meets Google/Amazon Cloud hybrid. Hmmm, I wonder...

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  • 6
    Ben Hoyle wrote on 31st Mar 2010

    Nicky - interesting point about mobile phones.

    According to the statistics mobile subscriptions in Africa rose from 54m to almost 350m between 2003 and 2008 and China has around 300m mobile subscribers. I suppose this translates into over 600m people defined by at least their IMEI / mobile number.

    From what I've read most of the affordable phones are the basic models with limited mobile internet potential. I would be interested to see how people have overcome the technological hurdles to forge a digital identity with the limited resources available to them.

    Tony - interesting how people are trying to build a unique digital identity by debating digital identity. I guess the multiplicity of viewpoints is something that needs to be acknowledged (and overcome?). What worries me though is that technology and data acquisition is leaping ahead of our debate on this one (both in UK and emerging markets).

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  • 7
    BarneyC wrote on 1st Apr 2010

    My comments are over here at http://www.exponere.com/2010/are-we-ever-really-without-identity/

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  • 8
    geof wrote on 2nd Apr 2010

    Dear Nicky Hickman
    I'm having a moment of doubt. Surely it's not I who have a digital identity but the phone. My wife and I have used one phone between us for three years and now we have two... but since she mostly uses mine (the one registered in my name) and I use hers whose identity is which?
    PS We don't use phones with biometric recognition systems... do you?

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About the author
Jude Umeh is a member of the UK's Sector Consulting Group in Capgemini's global Telecom Media and Entertainment (TME) community. His areas of expertise include: music, media and digital rights management; and he contributes to thought leadership development and delivery of solutions and services to the stakeholders in these fields. Jude is the author of The World Beyond Digital Rights Management.

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