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Education - The only way for Digital Wallets to succeed

Digital Wallets and SSI together seems a good idea. Lets just ignore the many technical hurdles that have to be overcome - because they will be - and concentrate on making Digital Wallets a real success.

We all know that just because an idea is good, there is no guarantee that it will revolutionise the world. History is littered with Really Good Ideas that were never a commercial success, and were eventually forgotten.

So how will Digital Wallets be a success? Part of the answer is that people must want them - REALLY want them! Once that demand is there, then they will be used by everyone and universal adoption will come naturally. It may be a gradual start up like contactless, but momentum can increase quickly.

'Displaying Government Credentials' is not a strong driver. A wallet that just stores and displays government credentials is just another credential carrier (for most people whether they are signed, verified or not, is irrelevant to them). It cannot be just like the progression from a booklet, to a paper, to a plastic card, to a smartcard....... It has to give the holder something more.

Let's look at a better way of doing things: Contactless payment is a great example and a step up to better things. Twenty years ago, who would have thought that it would be acceptable to pay substantial amounts of money just by tapping your card onto a reader without a pin or signature? The fact is that contactless payments has made cash nearly obsolete, because it is convenient and safer than handling rolls of banknotes or pockets full of coins.

If we can replicate that for transactions which are partially or totally informational then that will be truly transformational in terms of speed, convenience, effort and flexibility.

So how do we get there? Some of the things that come to mind are:

  • to ensure that wallets can be used in all situations (including offline) and offer a single solution to most transactions (even those that involve a small money transfer)

  • to ensure that wallets are resilient to loss and system failure, and of course secure.

  • to design wallets to be especially 'private'

  • to build widespread acceptance of wallets by both citizens and relying parties

  • to make wallets easy to use and accessable to all.

  • to build an understanding and awareness of wallets and to be seen as a natural progression for society - not just elitist

Nothing in this partial list is impossible, although some may need ingenious solutions.

What is hard, is to start the education process for citizens. - and this needs to get started now! Wallets are a major change when interacting between citizens, business (and also government) so the initial hurdle needs to be jumped.

We should start building a check list of features and a library of citizen-centric learning aids - If you are interested to help please let me know.


Have a look at these two animations from the EU's GLASS-H2020 project. They were designed to be understandable by both non-technical and technical audiences.

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