Editorial

When it comes to realising Digital Identity, action is the key

“We’re seeing pockets of accelerated progress around the world; real solutions are emerging from thought leadership and Digital Identity is now a strategic imperative for businesses and governments” says Christine Leong, Managing Director at Accenture and Global Lead for Biometrics & Digital Identity

Posted 12 February 2020 by Gary Flood


At Thursday’s Think Digital Identity For Government 2020Accenture’s Christine Leong will be speaking on-stage on the topic of ‘Identity and The Role of Government’. We sat down with her last week to get an early sense of what she plans to tell us.

Hi there, Ms Leong, and thanks for agreeing to speak to us about Accenture and Digital Identity in advance of Thursday’s conference in London. Can we start by understanding a little about your role at Accenture?

I’m the managing director responsible globally for decentralised identity and biometrics in Accenture, so anything related to identity in the multi-party system space, as well as biometrics.

Do you head up a global team—how is ID work structured at your company?

Yes, I have a global team. So any business related to Digital Identity, especially decentralised identity, be that in UK, Japan, Argentina, Columbia, the US, Australia, India, anywhere that Accenture goes, is in my purview: anywhere we (or our clients) have an office!

Your on-stage discussion on Thursday will focus on identity and the role of government, which is central to the interests of our delegates. Without telling us your whole presentation, of course, can you give us a preview of the key themes?

Government have always played a key role in successful identity schemes. I believe that trend will continue. Ultimately, whether your country has a national ID system or not, government has a role to sponsor, facilitate, and regulate identity. Governments have a responsibility to their citizens and businesses to make sure digital identity is provisioned in a way that benefits and protects them and the economy.

What you’re going to tell us follows on from all the work that Accenture did at Davos 2020. What was Accenture’s contribution there—there’s some great YouTube videos on your discussions there, for instance?

For the last three years, Accenture has been the Programme Advisor for Digital Identity, working with the World Economic Forum. I work specifically with the WEF on two projects – Identity in the Digital World and Known Traveler Digital Identity (KTDI), basically cutting across Identity of people, Identity of things, Identity of companies, Identity of livestock, Identity of purely virtual entities. In this role, our goal is to explore the future of identity. Based upon what we know now, how will identity impact our digital life? How do we use Identity, how do we trust it?

We work with the Forum and its partners to think about and define what that future could look like, and should look like, and the important points to consider to assure we deploy digital identity in the right way. At Davos last month we (Accenture) jointly published a report with WEF on the strategic imperative of Digital Identity (which can be downloaded here).

Great, thanks. What stood out from you in participating in Davos? What kind of maybe surprising themes or new ideas that came across?

We’ve been talking about identity at Davos for several years and this year we’ve seen just how many more companies across the private sector are becoming more interested in identity. I think private sector company leaders now understand that there needs to be some more collaboration because identity is something that benefits everybody, but individually, as separate enterprises, it is a struggle for each private entity to do it all themselves.

Across all of the identity sessions I participated in at Davos, it was hard to miss the sense that there needs to be some ID action! There’s been a lot of talk, but at last we’re seeing successful aspects of what some countries are doing, especially out of developing countries – that’s really interesting. Actually, some of what’s coming out of the developing world is more innovative and collaborative and is helping to define standards and best practices for large-scale identity management programs. The focus, really, for a lot of the developed countries, is about how they can provide more enhanced user-centric services, as well as thinking about how people use identity holistically in their lives, versus just implementing  identity solutions for the purpose of securing systems of individual organisations.

Based on your exposure to new ideas in Switzerland, what do you see as the main kind of things you’re likely to be working on in 2020 at Accenture?

Our plan there is about re-imagining what identity should be in today’s (and tomorrow’s) digital world. Our focus is to help our public and private sector clients to think about identity differently than they have done so in the past, and a drive real implementations to test and prove these ideas in action. Organisations can collaborate and make this real, and smart use of innovative technologies can  enable people to control their own data, plus enable brands to offer a better customer experiences while also enhancing security and privacy.

In the light of that, Christine, what is the one thing that you’d like to get the delegates to start thinking about this week? What change in behaviour you’d love to see?

I think it’s to focus on finding value, so that you can collaborate together. Stakeholders can work together to find value streams for each entity and see whether there are benefits to collaborating. Ask, ‘is there value for the individuals who own and use the Identity’—if yes, that value is your north star and go forward from there.

I also think it’s for delegates to set aside the things that you cannot agree on around Identity. Instead, try and work out the things that you can agree on, and then stick to those to try and make this real and make it happen. It’s easy to get stuck in endless discussions and debate around identity and there’s not necessarily going to be a right and a wrong answer – I think focusing on the things that you can agree on is a really good way to get started and move forward.

That’s a really pragmatic approach, Christine, thanks, and thanks for your time today. Can’t wait to hear you live at One Great George Street.

Christine’s company Accenture is Headline Sponsor for Think Digital Identity For Government 2020. A few places are still available if you haven’t secured your place to come and hear her and the many other top ID speakers we’ve signed up for the day: go here for the latest Agenda, and here to register for a ticket – but we suggest you hurry!