top of page

Canada Partners With WEF to Unleash Digital IDs

By Michael Nevradakis, Ph.D. August 27, 2022

The Canadian government, building on a partnership with the World Economic Forum (WEF), is developing a new federal “Digital Identity Program.”

The aim of the new initiative is to develop a digital proof-of-identity document, which could be used across different systems and environments ranging from government services to airports and border control, according to Slay News.

Officials revealed details of the program in the government’s sprawling “Canada’s Digital Ambition 2022” report, published Aug. 4.

According to the report, the “Digital Identity Program” is part of Priority 2.2 of Canada’s “Digital Ambition,” which seeks to “build and use common solutions for digital service delivery.”

“Our next step in enabling digital government is adopting a ‘government as a platform’ service delivery model,” the report states. The federal Digital Identity Program is the “next step in making services more convenient to access.”

Officials said the program is “the electronic equivalent of a recognized proof-of-identity document,” such as a driver’s license or passport, which “confirms that ‘you are who you say you are’ in a digital context.”

According to the report, “The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for government services to be accessible and flexible in the digital age.”

However, Canada’s partnership with the WEF began prior to the pandemic. Under Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a member of the WEF’s Young Global Leaders program, Canada has since 2018 participated in the “Known Traveler Digital Identity” (KTDI) program, the WEF’s pilot program to develop a digital ID.

The WEF described KTDI as “the first global collaboration of its kind” that “brings together a global consortium of individuals, governments, authorities, and the travel industry to enhance security in world travel.”

Canadian government officials in 2018 stated the aim of the KTDI initiative was “to test emerging digital technologies and how they can improve security and the seamless flow of legitimate air travellers,” in light of an expected increase in air travelers globally from 1.2 to 1.8 billion by 2030.

2030 is the target year of the United Nations’ “Agenda 2030” and its “Sustainable Development Goals,” or SDGs.

The WEF characterized the KTDI program as “the disruptive innovation the global travel security ecosystem needs,” and as a “paradigm shift to an interoperable digital identity system that prioritises traveller-centricity, upholds privacy by design, and enables the trustful cooperation between international public and private sector partners required for ensuring the safe and secure movement of people across borders.”

According to the WEF, “The KTDI pilot offers greater control over personal information, putting passengers in charge of when and how data is shared through a ‘traveller-managed digital identity.’”

Claims that individuals will have “greater control over personal information” are a common theme in such digital identity initiatives, including digital vaccine passports, as previously reported by The Defender.

The WEF in a 2019 press release explained how the KTDI is linked more broadly to government-issued identification documents of all stripes, stating that “KTDI is based on an interoperable digital identity, linked directly to government-issued identity documents,” through the use of “cryptography, distributed ledger technology and biometrics.”

The system “ensure[s] portability and … safeguard[s] the privacy of personal data,” while the digital ledger “provides an accurate, tamper-proof record of each traveller’s identity data and authorized transactions,” the press release stated.