Steward spotlight: IBM

September 12, 2018

IBM is among the world’s biggest contributors to open blockchain development and has a long history of research and innovation in emerging technologies. That is why it may come as no surprise that the company is among Sovrin’s Stewards. Today we talk to Dan Gisolfi, DE and CTO for Trusted Identity at IBM, about how the company is approaching the opportunities inherent in a universal, digital ID.

Why is IBM a Sovrin Steward?
We continue to relentlessly evolve our leadership in corporate data responsibility and stewardship. In 2017 we made a commitment to decentralized identity, seeing the rightful need in putting identity owners in control of their identity.

As we see the identity landscape evolve into different paradigms, we believe no one should own a global, public identity utility; instead, our belief is a collection of organizations should collaborate in maintaining and operating standardized components for responsible data stewardship. IBM became a Steward because of the shared vision defined within the Sovrin Trust Framework, in that no single entity owns the identity utility, data owners do. This premise continues to be the foundation as transactions become peer to peer, rooted in a public, permissioned distributed ledger.

What does being a Sovrin Steward mean to IBM?
Being a Sovrin Steward embodies IBM values in our commitment for leading responsible data stewardship for our clients.

IBM is an AI driven company and as we explore the extensible value of AI to transform workflows with the purpose to augment human intelligence, data stewardship becomes paramount.

Data and insights belong to their creator. We believe owners’ identity is the owner’s identity. Anything representing attributes of an individual, organization, or thing, produced by the inherent principle of existence should remain within the control of that entity. Each entity is able to control the flow of what is shared with whom and when it is shared, with the ability to revoke access at any point in time.

Systems must be transparent and explainable. As we build AI solutions and systems, transparency is of the utmost importance. Technology companies must be clear on what data, specifically identity, will be used for and also provide mechanisms to allow entities to revoke any aspects of that shared data – data belongs to the creator.

AI solutions and systems cannot exist without data. The use of that data, however, is the control of the owner. As a Steward, we will continue to build new exchanges for data ensuring true ownership does not get lost but is completely transparent through direct interactions.

What do you think the impact of the work the Sovrin community is doing will have on the future of online identity and security?
The impact is pretty straightforward – building the missing layer of identity on the Internet through a global public utility to enable identity for all. This includes those who currently do not have access to trusted forms of identity to transact in an emerging digital era.

Similar to the genesis of the Internet for the secure exchange of information, Sovrin provides the building blocks for a similar initiative, focusing on establishing trust between relationships through open standards and interoperability. This goes a long way as more and more transactions are driven through digital channels, where trust currently is non-existent. The community impact is revolutionizing how we establish trust by leveraging new technologies such as distributed ledgers.

This community work also provides the identity framework for a Web 3.0 stack for delivering true decentralized applications, while maintaining compliance with regulations such as GDPR. Because of these new regulations, enterprises will have to uplift how they establish and maintain relationships with their customers. Solutions built on Sovrin provide the framework to keep enterprises relevant and compliant with end users.

What’s the technical focus of your work as a Sovrin Steward?
Our technical focus as a Sovrin Steward is evolving day by day, as we learn more from market dynamics and from clients. It is energizing to see the passion not only in the community, but also in our clients and their shared vision for a decentralized approach to exchanging identity.

We’ve been focusing on a few things as a Sovrin Steward, some of which is outlined in a blog published in Aug 2018.

We are manically focused on building a robust, scalable, global identity network for all. As a step in that direction, we’ve been working on architecting a solution for ourselves as well as fellow Sovrin Stewards to deploy validators nodes with high availability. This not only benefits the availability of each Steward individually, but also enhances the integrity of the Sovrin Identity network as a whole. We believe establishing highly available, secure decentralized identity networks is vital as we build on top of them.

Beyond the technical focus specific for steward services, we are also driving adoption through incubation, working with clients to prove out the technology. This is being done through engagements to help early adopters participate in the Sovrin network. By working with clients, we are sharing the technical aspects of Indy/Sovrin with clients to build knowledge in the community. We truly believe a community approach to identity is critical, as we advance this space and shape it for years to come.

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