Unveiling Bhutan’s Digital Transformation
(un)Trustables Podcast Episode
The digital world is evolving at an unprecedented pace, and with it comes the need for innovative solutions to address the challenges and opportunities it presents. In the heart of the Himalayas, the Kingdom of Bhutan has embarked on a remarkable digital transformation journey, reshaping how its citizens interact with technology and trust in the digital realm.
In the inaugural episode of the (un)Trustables Podcast, we delve into the fascinating landscape of Bhutan’s National Digital Identity (NDI) project. This groundbreaking initiative introduces Bhutan’s “edge wallet,” a highly secure mobile wallet designed to safeguard what Bhutan refers to as ‘foundational digital identity,’ the first verified credential issued to citizens.
Listen to the full episode
The Birth of Bhutan’s National Digital Identity
Our conversation with Jacques Von Benecke, Chief Technology Officer at Druk Holding & Investments, reveals the genesis of Bhutan’s NDI project. This audacious endeavour embodies the vision of Bhutan’s monarchy, aligning perfectly with the principles outlined in the SSI book by Alex Preukschat and Drummond Reed. The aim is clear: to create a citizen-centric digital identity system that empowers individuals and streamlines their interactions with the government and private sector.
Building Blocks of a Bhutanese Digital Identity
Bhutan’s digital identity framework is a marvel of innovation. It includes unique identifiers, permanent and current addresses, and other critical data points that form the bedrock of citizens’ digital identities. Beyond foundational identity, the NDI opens the door to many use cases, spanning government services and commercial applications.
Empowering Bhutanese Citizens with Digital Convenience
The NDI project isn’t just about innovation; it’s about transforming the lives of Bhutanese citizens. It eliminates time-consuming journeys to government offices, saving citizens valuable time and resources. Even in remote areas, the NDI project enhances accessibility, simplifying processes with mobile solutions.
Drummond Reed’s Perspective on Bhutan’s SSI Journey
Renowned digital identity expert Drummond Reed shares his initial astonishment at the audacity of Bhutan’s plan to implement a self-sovereign identity (SSI) solution at the national level. He reflects on Bhutan’s forward-thinking approach and alignment with the SSI book’s principles.
We did research and then we read the SSI book which Drummond and Alex wrote, and we just felt so strongly that it’s exactly the vision of His Majesty, our King. We said, why don’t we just build the book? That was kind of our starting place. Since then, we embodied the principles. We really thought about what the idea of the book is and how it should benefit people. We wanted it to be very citizen-centric. – Jacques Von Benecke, Chief Technology Officer at Druk Holding & Investments
Crafting Legislation and Governance for Digital Trust
Translating the SSI book’s vision into tangible legislation was a crucial step. Jacques explains how this process, guided by Drummond Reed and informed by extensive consultation with experts, culminated in the unanimous passing of an Act in Bhutan’s parliament. This legislation ensures a citizen-centric approach to digital identity.
Building an Ecosystem for Digital Trust
Drummond underscores the importance of creating a comprehensive digital trust ecosystem involving various stakeholders. Bhutan’s NDI project serves as a blueprint for other nations seeking to embark on similar digital identity journeys, emphasizing the collaborative nature of such transformative endeavours.
Addressing Device Accessibility
Inclusivity is a priority for Bhutan’s NDI project. Jacques outlines Bhutan’s strategies to ensure device accessibility for all citizens, including a fund to provide devices to families without them. For those in remote areas without mobile coverage, a unique biometric verifiable credential bridges the digital divide, enabling access when they visit friends and family with smart devices.
Digital Horizons Unveiled
Bhutan’s NDI project is a testament to the transformative power of digital identity. It offers citizens convenience, efficiency, and accessibility while laying the foundation for a more connected and digitally empowered society.
As we conclude Episode 1 of the (un)Trustables Podcast, we invite you to stay tuned for future episodes where we continue to explore digital trust and transformation worldwide.
- NDI Press Release – For detailed information on Bhutan’s National Digital Identity project.
- Self-Sovereign Identity: Decentralized Digital Identity and Verifiable Credentials by Alex Preukschat and Drummond Reed – A comprehensive resource for understanding the concepts behind digital identity and verifiable credentials.
- Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom – Explore this heartwarming film that provides a glimpse into life in Bhutan, including its remote villages and unique challenges—nominated for an Oscar in the Best International Feature category.
We hope the insights shared in this episode inspire you as we look forward to sharing more remarkable stories of trust and transformation in future episodes. Subscribe to the (un)Trustables Podcast for updates on upcoming episodes. Follow us on X, LinkedIn, and YouTube for the latest news and discussions on digital trust and transformation. Stay digitally empowered!
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