Republication advocate of the U.S. Digital Identity Act, Bill Foster has spoken out about advancing ambitions for a robust digital identity ecosystem, citing the need for identity trust to ensure national and personal security.

The initiative was introduced in by Foster in 2020, and in 2021 reintroduced to a vote out of committee. Since it has been boosted by a senate version from Sens. Krysten Sinema and Cynthia Lummis.

The proposal is to establish a unified, ecosystem approach to create a federated digital identity system in the U.S. which is supported by legislation passed in Congress, leaning on a variety of providers in the market to provide opt-in identity validation services.

According to a report by HID Global, interoperability should be higher on agenda to enable a prosperous digital economy where solutions from vendors are integratable to service the needs of sectors such as banking and travel.

Digital identity solutions, cannot be “stand-alone initiatives from a variety of vendors”, the report says.

While governments and prominent organisations across the world have now switched on to the enormous advantages of digital ID, factors such as regulation and maintaining standards, technical specifications and operational aspects concerning digital identity are crucial to achieving a prosperous digital economy.

The bill would also set up a grant program at the Department of Homeland Security to facilitate interoperable government and vendor systems for digital identity verification.

A shift in policy would establish the government more in the centre of the digital identity ecosystem to have more input on the business of digital ID verification solutions, biometrics and security documents. An extended aim of the legislation is to ensure the government has a more prominent role in helping American citizens prove their identities online, with digital identity incorporated in services for the private sector and enterprise.

A state-issued digital identity is the necessary intermediary to assure trust between the consumer and the enterprise or public sector body delivering a service. The pandemic worsened this difficult trust relationship while many people couldn’t verify their identity to apply for state benefits and access the help needed amid wide-scale unemployment , shining a light on the need for a common digital identity system in the United States but not creating of a single identity credential which a new section in the bill recommends.

In almost all interactions with government to access public or private sector services, a formal type of identification is needed to prove who you are and the lack of a unifying approach to digital identity in the U.S. is creating barriers. The typical ways people can prove their legal identity is by issuing a driver’s license, passport, green card, federal employee ID or military ID.

The bill’s objective is to unify the solutions in the marketplace to ensure U.S. people can simply but securely and seamlessly verify who they are across case studies.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Francisco estimates 11% of Americans lack a government-backed photographic ID, disproportionately made up of senior nationals, African Americans, Latinos, and people earning a low income below $25,000 per year. Moreover, one in four Black American citizens currently have no photo ID issued to them by the government.

Identity Fraud costs increasing from $16.9 billion in 2019 to a staggering $56 billion in 2020 also coincided with the notable lack of a trusted digital identity during the pandemic.

This study also describes a fragmented state of identity in America, where unlike most countries, there is no national ID card and government agencies and commercial enterprises operate in a private identity-verification marketplace with no dominant vendor.

Revisions of bill submitted to the House and Senate echo an emphasis on ensuring fair and equal access to digital identity verification.