The government of the Spanish autonomous community Catalonia has revealed a plan of developing a decentralized identity platform for its citizens to empower them in the digital world through giving control of their own data while interacting with online systems. The project has been termed as IdentiCAT, and it will be the first digital identity scheme at European level. The idea behind the project is based on Spain’s digital currency policy released in June to make the best use of technology within public authorities and society.

According to the plan, citizens will be able to manage their data in any digital platform in public as well as the private sector. On Sept 7 the government revealed the new model of digital identity to ensure decentralized and self-sovereign citizenship which is based on Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT).

If implemented as planned, Catalonia will become the pioneer in the decentralized digital identity system allowing citizens to exclusively own and manage their personal information and identity in every electronic sphere. The project has been undertaken complying with the elDAS regulations approved by the European Union in 2014, on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions. The objective of the regulation is to ensure mutual recognition and acceptance of digital identities between EU nations and provide a legal framework for their use in other member countries.

Therefore, users of IdentiCAT will be able to access online services and perform electronic transactions in any EU country. Jordi Puigneró, the minister of Digital Policy and Public Administration, presented the project before public and stated that the launch of the project is a part of the government’s commitment of ‘qualifying and empowering Catalan citizens so they may carry out activities with full assurance and security in the digital society of the 21st century’.

Puigneró added that ‘it is time to make the fifth power real: citizen empowerment’, as mentioned in the Catalan Government Plan of the 12th parliamentary term, directed at improving governance by encouraging ‘fully digital citizenship, providing citizens with empowerment, training, and protection’.

The concept of self-sovereign identity

Traditionally, identity-related information of citizens of a country is handled by the government or public entities. With the introduction of IdentiCAT, this concept will change. The term ‘Self-Sovereign Identity’ has come forth, indicating the users will have exclusive authority to the details of their identity-related information, and secure and private access to private and public online services.

Personal data will be stored in a database that citizens can access particular software installed on mobile or computer. They can create and manage their own identities, which will be legally acceptable and private. This indicates a revolutionary change in respect to digital identity models that persisted until today, as the public bodies will play the role of validators of the tech, and citizens will issue and manage their own identities.

Handing over this sensitive issue to citizens is definitely a bold initiative. However, the government will securely validate the identities with tools distributed to citizens, public and private firms. There will also be a robust and reliable regulatory framework so that no security breach occurs.

One of many advantages of this digital identity system is the ability of the citizens to reveal only the required feature of their identity and keep the remaining data private while conducting any electronic communication. For instance, an ID may be used to demonstrate that a user is of a particular age without having to provide an address or date of birth.

Citizen empowerment through technology

Catalonia seems to be ready to empower its citizens through digital innovation as it has the necessary infrastructure and suitable conditions, including a powerful ICT industry with almost 16,000 firms, and ICT based universities and research centres. Moreover, the local government is highly motivated in promoting advanced digital technologies, including 5G, AI, etc.

Catalonia intends to push its economy to the next level using the reputation of being the Mobile World Capital and technological hub of Southern Europe. The Distributed Ledger Technology offers a highly secure, stable, and resilient platform for the development and implementation of IdentiCAT project.

The entire project will be conducted in two stages: In the first phase, the government will create necessary tools, develop software, and resolve any legal issues according to legislation. The second phase will incorporate deploying and distributing IdentiCAT among citizens and public and private firms.