Stories ENG

I look or type, ergo sum. The groundbreaking concept of an integrated (European) digital identity

I look or type, ergo sum. The groundbreaking concept of an integrated (European) digital identity
Getty Images
04 Sep 23

Welcome to the fourth issue of the new Insights monthly column - Pierangelo Soldavini's point of view. In this issue, you will find an analysis by the well-known Italian journalist and expert on economics and innovation. Soldavini has been writing for Sole24Ore for over thirty years and is a reference for banking issues. Because we need to understand the contemporary challenges, that our markets are facing. Because we need reliable compasses to guide us through these uncertain times. Because it's crucial for us to unravel complexities and understand their meaning. Read the previous issues on tech-companies, artificial intelligence and super-apps, and enjoy the new one!


Since the dawn of his first geolocalisation start-up, the goal of Sam Altman - a US computer scientist and entrepreneur, co-founder and current CEO of OpenAI and formerly president of the world's best-known accelerator Y Combinator - has been to improve and simplify people's lives, which should be the goal of any innovator. Sam does it with style, with innovative solutions potentially bringing out epochal changes but also provocative ideas, often raising questions about the ethical boundaries in the digital age. Sam hit the global headlines last November when he launched ChatGpt: a tool that has made artificial intelligence accessible to the general public, taking it out of the niche of technologists, with all the spin-offs of a technology that promises a radical transformation of the future, but is also be quite scary.

What has flown under the radar - except of insiders - is the new provocation launched by the young star-spangled innovator: an eyeball-shaped sphere that aims to discern between human and artificial intelligence, with the ultimate goal of giving people back an identity, referred to as 'proof of personhood', and redistributing global wealth through a cryptocurrency. That of Worldcoin, whose brand name already reveals its ambition as a global currency, is an adventure that, in Altman's intentions, aims to equitably redistribute profits from the artificial intelligence revolution for the benefit of all humanity. In a nutshell, the project aims to provide a certified identity to nearly eight billion people on the planet, promoting economic inclusion for everyone. In short, the project aims to establish a global identity system called WorldID, relying on the biometric recognition of the individual iris. So far, a couple of million people underwent iris scanning through an appropriate apparatus, receiving cryptocurrency in return. The WId utility token for this system  may also be used for a potential future universal income. The scepticism surrounding the project reflects in the cautiousness of investors, which is evident by the fact that the cryptocurrency has not made it to the top hundred by capitalization. But above all criticism surrounding the collection of biometric data and the strong concerns about the privacy of a privately managed digital identity plan: a dystopian vision that risks turning into a nightmare! The 'One Human' T-shirts used at the project's launch did little to ease these fears.

Yet Worldcoin has highlighted an issue, that of digital identity, that will become a priority for governments and individuals globally. The recent pandemic emergency underscored the importance of unambiguous and certified digital identification as the key to simple and secure access to vital services, particularly in healthcare. It is worth noting the significant increase in Spid usage, which rose to almost 36 million users today, six times as many as the 5.7 million in January 2020, on the eve of the lockdown. This surge has led Italy to rank first in Europe for digital identity adoption. Spid was originally designed as a hub for integrating with private services, which was the appetite of digital identity providers. However, this vision clashed with the reality at the time. With the expansion of national identities across the globe, a European shift towards a more comprehensive wallet concept emerged. This will pave the way for seamless integration of digital identity with other public services and private ventures, beginning with the most commonly used ones. It's no secret that financial services may be priority candidates to benefit from a single and interoperable tool, especially if it is cross-border. The Italian government is taking steps to be ahead of continental projects. However, in the meantime, the European EIDAS regulation in its draft outlines parameters to follow and limits to work within and proposes the creation of a European Digital Identity Wallet, which would streamline processes for public institutions, businesses, and individuals. has stated that 'the European Digital Identity Wallet will offer citizens and businesses a straightforward, dependable, and secure system to verify their identity online and share several of attributes and certificates, such as their driving licence, diploma or bank account details, with private and public service providers. The success of CSD2 has demonstrated how simply opening up bank data to third parties can revolutionize the way financial services are provided and thought about. Now the prospect of unifying people's data in a single wallet, and the option for individuals to decide who to share their information with, the landscape looks bright for greater efficiency and innovation.

It's no surprise that the major Big Tech giants are already moving in this direction, adjusting their existing tools to fit these new trends. The existing national digital identity systems will not be replaced. However, they will need integration into a new regulatory framework hinting at interoperability with synergies overcoming national borders and barriers among different sectors. This will involve blending several services and applications and welcoming new players. You do not want to miss a chance to make the most of opportunities. Some of them are already available. Even leaving aside all too visionary projects such as Altman's Worldcoin, Google has rebranded Google Pay to Google Wallet, in an evolution that is not just a change of label. Apple is preparing to do the same. As the Italian system and companies, we cannot afford being caught off guard and must know how to capitalise on the experience of recent years: there is no need for 'proof of parenthood', but neither is the need for excessive national presumption.

Condividi e partecipa alla discussione