We were thrilled to see more than 150 in-person and remote participants take time out of their summers to attend the fifth Identity Ecosystem Steering Group (IDESG) plenary at the MIT Media Lab. Beyond strong attendance, we were most excited by comments from enthusiasts and skeptics alike that the IDESG was getting down to the nitty gritty – taking a number of steps to flesh out the Identity Ecosystem Framework and move us ever closer to realizing the vision of the NSTIC.
While noteworthy progress was made on business sustainment, taxonomy, and IDESG alignment with the Administration’s cybersecurity framework efforts, especially encouraging were the Trust Framework and Trustmark Committee discussions on potential accreditation processes and progress toward an Identity Ecosystem functional model.
Multi-stakeholder efforts are notoriously difficult, and employing one in such a complex environment only adds to the challenges and opportunities. Many participants enter with opposing views on hot-button topics; some are there primarily to defend existing turf. With a diversity of opinions, interests and motivations, consensus can be elusive.
The IDESG has made good progress in its first year despite these challenges – but at MIT, the pace seemed to quicken, and many participants voiced increased excitement about the effort and progress toward the IDESG’s goals.
Part of this was a recognition among many participants that, while there are many challenges ahead, not all were relevant to near-term progress. Rather, the best way to find consensus, build momentum, and add clarity to the process was to focus on commonalities on a way forward while acknowledging the hot-button issues that eventually need resolution. In essence, some of the more contentious issues can afford to spend a little time in the parking lot – and perhaps will be obviated by other decisions in the meantime.
As an example, members realized that it made sense to shift away from arguments about what accreditation looks like and instead focus on a more important issue: if the IDESG were to have an accreditation program, what would it be looking to accredit? If we can’t answer that question, we’ll be hard-pressed to make progress on defining the process.
On this point, the NPO believes the community is much better off shifting its efforts toward defining an Identity Ecosystem Framework that enshrines the NSTIC vision and guiding principles, and provides a foundation for a flourishing marketplace. Once we have this, the market – including governments – will start to make clear what sorts of accreditation processes are necessary on top of that. The recently “rebooted” Trust Framework and Trustmark Committee had a series of excellent sessions on this topic.
Beyond accreditation, we were excited to see real progress made on a functional model to help underpin the Identity Ecosystem. As the NPO detailed in a recent blog, it’s become clear that in today’s market, the increasing diversity of identity solutions and modularity of functions such as “Credential Service Provider” can be implemented by different participants, depending on the particular product or use case; the function matters more than who performs it. Moreover, discussions focusing on the actors or legacy interpretations of functions caused a great deal of confusion. Once the focus was placed on the functions themselves, people started understanding each other.
At MIT, several of the IDESG Committees did great work to advance a new functional model that can help clarify some confusing elements and better recognize the different functions in the contemporary – if ever-evolving – identity ecosystem.
These were hardly the only accomplishments to come out of Boston, but they are two that are noteworthy. As one participant noted on his way out the door, “best plenary yet!”
With some momentum and positive energy in hand, we expect the IDESG to top it with its upcoming October Plenary Meeting, which we’ll be hosting October 16-18 at NIST-Gaithersburg. Register today and stay tuned for more details on the agenda, which will include updates from existing NSTIC pilots as well as details on a host of new pilot efforts soon to be announced. We appreciate all of our partners across the globe who continue to support efforts to catalyze the Identity Ecosystem!