Centre for Internet & Society

When we embarked on this research project, we began with the primary questions of what constitutes a digital identity system. In the last few years, with the rise in national digital identity projects, there has been significant academic and media attention to the idea, benefits and risks of a digital identity system.

However, there have been relatively few attempts to critically look at what makes an identity system digital, and what are its defining elements and characteristics. Through a preliminary study of existing identity systems, we have arrived at these core set of concepts and processes that mark a digital identity system. In arriving at this list, we have relied upon and referred to the works by Dave Birch et alWorld Bank’s ID4D initiativeMawaki ChangoKaliya Young and Kayode Ezike.

By publishing this, we hope to arrive at a shared vocabulary to discuss and critically analyse digital identity systems, both within our team and in engagements with other stakeholders. This illustrated and interactive glossary can serve as an easy reference for anyone seeking an introduction to the core aspects of digital identity. Even though this is essentially a list of definitions with examples, it does not follow an alphabetical order like most glossaries, but the logical flow of concepts as they build upon each other in a working identity system. We have paid special emphasis to the core processes of Identification and Authentication, elucidating them through diagrams.

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  • Research by Shruti Trikanad and Amber Sinha
  • Conceptualization by Pooja Saxena and Amber Sinha
  • Illustrations by Akash Sheshadri and Pooja Saxena
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