Future of Digital Identity

Generated on 19th March 2019

How we prove that we are who or what we say we are during digital transactions and interactions is set to become one of the defining features of the next stage of the human digital transformation.

Today, we are living with early attempts to solve the identity problem that are no longer fit for purpose. At best, the multiple different ways we login, confirm our identities, and establish trust in claims made during digital exchanges, has become profoundly inconvenient. At worst, they have left us in a connected world which is neither safe nor secure, and in which we seem to have completely lost control of our most personal information. The next generation solutions to the digital identity challenge could change all of this.

In the short term, new solutions are likely to move us towards the promise of a single Digital ID that allows us to simply, safely and securely navigate a connected world using a single, digital identity. This ID could allow us to swiftly cross an international border and hire a car, use multiple credit cards, change our bank account, and act as a robust login tool for any and every online digital service we chose. Furthermore, there is the tantalising promise  that it could do all of this whilst affording greater privacy.

Looking further forward, change could become profound. The ways that we digitally manage, share and verify our personal information could  come to completely redefine the human digital experience. Current digital business models could collapse. Centres of digital power might shift. And the personal data ‘land grab’ could be replaced by a new digital norm in which individuals can finally make meaningful claims to data ownership and control. However, there are a number of potentially calamitous pitfalls to navigate along the way. Some of these could lead to whole new kinds of digital dystopia.


At the end of 2018, Future Agenda undertook a major project exploring the Future of Digital Identity. With the generous support of Mastercard, the Future Agenda team ran a series of expert workshops in different locations around the world that explored the key factors that are likely to shape the future of digital identity.

The programme began with an initial perspective as a provocation. Participants in the workshops then gave us new, more fully formed, insights which were in turn explored further during one-to-one interviews with major stakeholders and thinkers in the space.

Download the introduction and executive summary.

Individual sections of the report can be explored and downloaded by clicking on the section headings on the left.

FDI World Map Infographic


Defining and Communicating Digital Identity

One of the key challenges around discussions of the Future of Digital Identity is that the term means many things to many different stakeholders. Communicating and defining Digital Identity is a challenge in it’s own right, even before addressing technical and social challenges.

Download our discussion on Defining and Communicating Digital Identity.

Empowering the Individual

It is easy to miss the ways in which Digital ID could fundamentally transform the human digital experience after just a brief initial encounter with the concept. But it could, and likely will. In this section we explore the emerging view that Digital ID could be a tool of empowerment, providing safe and universal access to services, or rebalancing the current digital and data paradigm in favour of consumers and citizens.

Download “Empowering the Individual”.

Proportion of population currently lacking official proof of identity (ID4D – Findex survey data, 2018)

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System Design

The ways Digital ID technologies and schemes are built and developed will have profound implications for the global futures of privacy, security, equality and opportunity.


Download our thoughts on System Design.

Eco-system Development

The number of Digital ID technologists, technologies, investors, stakeholders, interested parties, working papers, white papers, and fledgling products and services, is mushrooming. Given that the idea of Digital ID has been around for a long time, and its history is littered with aborted projects, it is unclear where exactly we might be in a Digital ID ‘hype-cycle’.

Download “Eco-system Development”.

Social Identities

In social, cultural and psychological terms, the questions around what our identities are and how we construct and maintain them, are among the most difficult we could ask. As Digital ID becomes more and more embedded in our lives, we need to think about how socio-cultural aspects of identity could influence our technological IDs in the future.


Download “Social Identities”.

Unintended Consequences

In collaborating with multiple Digital ID stakeholders during our programme, we got the impression that this was a community keen to avoid the unintended consequences that have come to characterise so many of the technological innovations now embedded in our everyday lives.


Download “Unintended Consequences”.


Digital identity is a complex idea, but that should not dissuade us from exploring its potential to transform our collective digital futures for the better. Even the immediate promise that interoperable Digital ID systems could allow us safe, secure and reliable passage through digital spaces and digital interactions and transactions is tantalising.

Download our Conclusion and references.

Percentage of digital financial transactions recognised as crime, by region (Threatmatrix, Q2 2018, Cybercrime Report)

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