Digitised ID system to launch next year

  • Digital future: David Burt, the Premier, pictured at Monday's ConsenSys-BDA blockchain conference with Tim Grant, CEO of DrumG (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The Bermuda Government plans to roll out a digitised national identity programme, based on blockchain technology, early next year.

David Burt, the Premier, said that it was part of a digital transformation that he believes will culminate in “completely paperless government” within five years.

The Perseid, or personal e-ID project, is being led by Trunomi, the Bermudian-based personal data rights technology company, and Shyft, the blockchain technology firm, in partnership with the Ministry of National Security.

The scheme is based on the concept of self-sovereignty, meaning that the individual, rather than the Government, owns their data and only the individual can give permission to the Government, banks, utilities, or others, to use them.

“It is the Government’s intent during the first quarter of next year to roll out a digitised national identity system which will be blockchain-based,” Mr Burt told The Royal Gazette after speaking at a blockchain conference this week.

The scheme will not only help Government to operate more efficiently, but it will also benefit residents in their everyday lives, Mr Burt said.

“In the future, it will enable us to do things like create electronic medical records and have better disbursement and caching of information between government systems,” Mr Burt said.

“It will enable us to disburse things to residents or non-residents, Bermudians or non-Bermudians, or by age. You can insert government records and business licences into it.

“This is all part of what’s necessary to have a digital transformation of Government that the Cabinet has committed to.”

Having an e-ID system on blockchain could make Bermuda a leader as a digital society.

“This is, in my view, the reason we’re pushing to make it a reality, it’s the best way we can demonstrate to the public what blockchain is in a very simple form,” Mr Burt said.

“When you tell citizens that you don’t have to fill in the same bank forms for every different bank, or photocopy your passport again — you just do it the one time and it’s in the system and it cannot be changed — they will see the tremendous benefit.

“Also we recognise that the cost of doing business is largely based on the cost of compliance, so if we can reduce those costs it will be helpful.”

Stuart Lacey, founder and chief executive officer of Trunomi, said Perseid was built on a group of technologies called “the Bermuda stack”. The system, if it proves effective in Bermuda could be an exportable blueprint for other countries, he suggested.

“It creates a simple, yet elegant way to create, generate and share identity data within a sovereign nation,” Mr Lacey said. “We end up with the ability to link any person that’s requested an identity, like a bank or insurance company, with a provider of attributes — those could be proof of residence, like a utility bill, or proof of identity, like a passport.

“Then it uses a rights framework on a distributed ledger to be able to apportion the admissions, as to who gets what and for how long.

“It effectively allows the individual to have their own data wallet and to share utility of that data with their government on a permissions basis.

“This is the hybridised model. That means governments can have access to an individual’s data and share that with, for example, regulators, banks or insurers, but only on the condition that the individual has consented to do so.

“So it means you’ve taken the concept of self-sovereignty and linked it through a rights framework and blockchain technologies to enable government systems to operate with greater efficiency.”

Mr Burt said the tokenisation of assets, another application of blockchain technology, created exciting possibilities in conjunction with the e-ID system.

“It means is that you can divide any asset into a billion or a trillion pieces and each part can be owned by somebody — it just opens up the world,” the Premier added.

The full picture of how our lives will change with the spread of blockchain applications is “difficult to conceptualise”, Mr Burt conceded.

He added: “It requires a change of thinking in Government and for us all to be more digital in our view.”