Understanding the power of digital identity

SMART Access & Identity 2024 Access Control & Identity Management, Security Services & Risk Management, Financial (Industry)

Shanaaz Trethewey.

The way we perceive business flourishing is undergoing a paradigm shift, as digital identity and consumer consent redefine the dynamics of transactions. Shanaaz Trethewey, Chief Operating Officer for Comcorp South Africa, emphasises the pivotal role of individuals’ digital identities in unlocking this transformative potential.

In South Africa, where an estimated 38 million people are above 18, a significant proportion of the population can transact as adults. However, only a fraction of them (one in six) can provide verifiable income through a payslip, leading to increased risk and the need for extensive checks and balances in transactions.

Astonishingly, the country processes approximately four million credit applications each month, resulting in 48 million applications annually that invariably require proof of identity, often involving multiple verification checks during the transaction process. This number does not even account for verifications at healthcare facilities, educational institutions, and insurance claims, to name a few other examples.

An individual’s identity journey has evolved considerably over time. In the 1950s, manual registers and handshakes, to paper form, were all it took before being replaced with ID books and smart cards that stored various personal information, for example, on a bank card.

“The advent of fingerprint biometric technology today has shifted the focus to appreciating the uniqueness of individuals. Digital identity is no longer just a tool; it represents a vision of seamless interaction and integration in all sectors of our economy, but especially finance,” says Trethewey.

Digital inclusion and the role of digital identity in enabling frictionless transactions is another crucial factor in unlocking an individual’s potential for economic engagement. Platforms that facilitate the ease of fund exchange internationally exemplify the growing union between technology and financial activities.

“Companies across the globe are already leveraging open banking capabilities to provide digital identity verification services, bypassing traditional waiting periods. In emerging economies, the speed and efficiency of digital payment platforms like WhatsApp Pay in India and Brazil, for example, have facilitated the flow of money, reducing reliance on cash transactions and contributing to the formalisation of economies,” she adds.

As always, the concept of consent within the realm of digital identity holds immense significance. Trethewey emphasises the need for critical analysis of what consent entails and the opportunity it presents to revolutionise how individuals interact with the world and access products and services.

How the future may look

As artificial intelligence proliferates and identity fraud becomes a pressing concern, the need for robust tools to ensure undeniable identity verification will only grow. Trethewey urges businesses to embrace the evolving landscape and adopt sophisticated solutions to combat identity fraud while harnessing the potential of AI.

Trethewey suggests these three powerful principles to guide businesses in this transformative era:

1. Returning to first principles: This is vital, as adding layers to legacy systems may not address the underlying challenges effectively. The business community needs clarity on what they need to achieve. Taking a step back is critical to understanding what served us well in the past, but may not be relevant anymore.

2. Seeing the bigger picture: Adopting a holistic approach and viewing organisations beyond silos is crucial for unlocking a broader range of commercial opportunities. Things like eliminating duplication within a singular organisation can only be done if we take a step back and take stock.

3. Competitive collaboration: This fosters leveraging technical skills and business strengths, amplifying market reach, and unlocking true market potential. A culture of working together rather than solely competing against each other encourages the joint pursuit of mutually beneficial opportunities.

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