“On the internet, nobody knows you are a dog” is an oft-quoted maxim from the ’90s attributed to Peter Steiner. First appearing in The New Yorker, this meme illustrates the difficulty of establishing identity and, by extension, validating claims on the internet. Over three decades later, we still face the same challenges. In this realm of bits and bytes, one’s identity is not merely a matter of name and lineage but of data and code, of certificates and encryption keys.

Three years later, the market is stuck in “Groundhog Day,” and while e-signature sales have exploded, vendors have been bland and unimaginative with their solutions. Beyond signing documents and remote onboarding, the report Digital And Trust Services Market Trends 2023 demonstrates how digital trust services will transform:

  • Digital healthcare provisioning. Prior to 2020, a World Health Organization International Certificate Of Vaccination (yellow card) was the de facto way to demonstrate vaccination against common diseases — tuberculosis, yellow fever, etc. The pandemic ushered in vaccine apps to quickly and reliably validate vaccination claims. Today, sharing health information between providers or departments is error-prone and inefficient. The Patient Safety Network shows that 11% of preventable, adverse patient safety outcomes are a result of ineffective communication. In the report, Forrester explores how digital identity can improve outcomes by simplifying transferability, records handling, and follow-up care.
  • Global talent mobility. There is a global talent gap in key areas, especially science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and businesses have increasingly turned to other countries to address these gaps. Immigration is a complex and time- and paperwork-intensive process, and reduced complexity will increase attractiveness to immigrants. Digital trust technology will speed up credential verification, background checks, and permit issuance, if applied correctly. We have already seen applications of this. The UK government introducing a digital right to rent and work checks is a notable example. The report discusses existing applications to immigration and further explores what is possible.
  • Privacy and user choice. Physical identity documents contain extensive information that may not always be necessary to a specific scenario when a user has to prove their identity. In addition, physical documents are vulnerable to mishandling and theft and can be altered or faked. A digital identity allows for data minimization and gives the user the power to select what they disclose and to whom. Users have the choice to only present required information (such as a photo and name), instead of disclosing detailed information such as date of birth and ID number. In case of theft or loss of physical documents, digital identity also provides cross-border identification, which is especially problematic for refugees. The report focuses on steps that are essential to the change.

The use cases brought on by necessity demonstrate how, with planning and creative applications of the underlying technology, digital trust services will transform the world. Digital trust will affect every facet of our lives, including immigration, healthcare, and human rights. The change train has no brakes, and vendors that are not well positioned will be run over. The report addresses issues that the industry should anticipate and recommends practical ways to address them. It also further explores new applications of the technology and provides guidance for vendors and practitioners to take advantage of the future. Forrester clients can read the full report here.