Sovrin Community Guest Post: Coronavirus Propels Digital Identity Despite Limitations

March 10, 2020

Scott Perry owns and operates Scott S. Perry CPA PLLC, a boutique cybersecurity CPA audit Firm which is one of only seven Firms qualified to audit public Certification Authorities (internet trust anchors) in the U.S. He is a founding member of the Sovrin Governance Framework Working Group and has lent his expertise to major sections of the Sovrin Governance Framework V2, in particular the Sovrin Trust Assurance Framework.

As I write this from my self-exiled home office fifteen miles from LifeCare Center of Kirkland—currently Ground Zero for the coronavirus—I’m reflecting on my week of elbow bumps at the Hyperledger Global Forum Conference in Phoenix and the impact new technology may have in digital life in the new reality of global superviruses.

Humanity has seen its share of pandemics since its inception, but times are different in the age of the internet. As I shared in my presentation at the conference, I have been a cybersecurity auditor since the term e-commerce was first coined. In 1995, I told an audience of 200 security professionals that the e-commerce industry would generate billions of dollars. At that time, you could only buy flowers from FTD on-line and books from a new company called Amazon. I was practically laughed off the stage.

Now the Governor of Washington has mandated that I work from my home office like millions of people across the world. This quarantine will force us to reexamine the state of digital life. Fortunately, the e-commerce industry has blossomed as I predicted. We can receive goods to our homes, stay connected through social media, and stream entertainment. However, the current lack of trust on the internet is still a limiting factor in our digital lives. We can still be whoever we deem to be on the internet until we take the collective act to make fundamental changes in internet identity.

Almost five years ago, I set on a quest to advance digital trust and came upon a technology that could propel the internet to a new realm of value. In a keynote speech at the Hyperledger Conference, Don Tapscott said distributed ledger technology (still coined as “blockchain”) can transform digital life from “the internet of information to the internet of value.”

From a cybersecurity audit perspective, blockchain technology is a game changer. It has the power to create a reliable source of truth in digital transactions like the internet has not seen before. Blockchain is not the panacea for everything, but its cryptographic and redundancy properties can perpetuate internet trust anywhere it is susceptible to fraud. Our greater dependence in self-quarantined digital life may be the trigger that pushes this technology forward over the global hump.

Creating trustworthy digital identities using blockchain technology will require more human cooperation than any initiative since the advent of the internet. People must agree on global standards; network participants must implement and be accountable for their contribution to trustworthy practices; and cross border governance needs to be established for it to succeed. We need interoperability between silos of identity innovation that are sprouting in networks such as Sovrin, Ethereum, Corda, etc. And we need to establish a new internet communication stack that contains an identity payload, so all transactions are authentic. This trust stack will not appear from thin air. Global internet leaders must collectively make it happen.

As a blockchain governance advisor, I was pleased that my presentation was one of 80 topics chosen for the Hyperledger Conference. It was reassuring to see that governance is starting to be a topic of interest. That means we are shifting from a phase of proving out the technology to a phase where we can start collaborating on making the technology work throughout the digital world.

The coronavirus has upended our current life experiences. One potential benefit of this pandemic is that it may finally be the reality that propels our digital life to a new paradigm.


The Sovrin Network uses a distributed ledger as a root of trust to issue and verify decentralized identifiers (DIDs) written to the public ledger. This provides a reliable source for credentials, allowing for the issuing and verification of digital credentials while providing a revolutionary level of control to the credential holder. Sovrin’s intensive governance process keeps private information from being written to the public ledger and allows for interoperability with other networks that enable DID exchange. See the use case repository for further real-world use cases from around the Sovrin community.

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