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Unlocking the Value of Verifiable Credentials in the Health Sector

July 8, 2022
VC
digitalcredentials
healthcare
COVID

COVID has been a life changing event of our times and one that has transformed the world forever. 

It has created an indelible footprint on not just healthcare, but also other aspects of life and work such as education, hospitality, entertainment, and more! Even government policies and legislation came under its onslaught as every country was forced to define policies and guidelines to contain the spread of this pandemic, thereby impacting the lives of its people and the health of its economy. 

A silver lining in this gloom is the emergence of technology, especially those that empower people to control their data usage, security, and privacy. And thus emerged a framework called Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) that empowered every individual to be in control of his or her data, including where it is stored and how it is used. 

While there are many ways to implement SSI, one of the most conducive options was through Verifiable Credentials (VCs), as these were tamper-proof, machine-readable, secure, privacy preserving, and interoperable. All these features also made it highly conducive for securely sharing and authenticating vaccination details across geographies. 


COVID Vaccination and VCs

Excited by the prospects of VCs, organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), Linux Foundation Public Health (LFPH), Decentralised Identity Foundation (DIF), W3C, and the Common Check Foundation began supporting organisations like Affinidi that were involved in building the framework and infrastructure for implementing COVID credentials in the form of VCs. 

With the myriad standards and applications being implemented across the globe, WHO and LFPH came up with the technical specifications and implementation guidelines for VCs, that in turn, enabled countries to open their borders, both domestically and internationally.  It required technology solutions to issue, process, manage and verify COVID certificates throughout the journey for international travellers, right from the time they booked their tickets to the time they arrived at their destination. This was a mammoth task, given that countries had varying vaccination policies for domestic and international travel. 

However, the universal applicability of a digitally signed, verifiable credential QR-based certificate was a game changer. All that travellers had to do was take a COVID test and upload their certificate. This certificate was verified to ensure that it came from a government-authorised lab, and the same was converted into a VC-based QR code that could be read by machines to determine the vaccination status of the traveller. 

Thus, VCs became a hassle-free way to check the vaccination status of travellers and accordingly determine their entry into countries. The entire process could be completed within a few minutes and required no specialised software whatsoever, other than just a QR reader! The secure and tamper-proof nature of VCs made them an indelible proof!

Beyond COVID

Now, you may wonder what happens as we near the end of the pandemic. Will these VCs continue to be relevant in a post-COVID world?

Absolutely! 

The ramifications of VCs are immense throughout the sector, and can have wide-ranging adoption in segments like communicable disease control, routine immunisation, and personal health records. 

Beyond COVID, these health certificates can be used to

At the heart of these VC implementations is the use of specifications that will facilitate easy sharing and interoperability across systems and countries. 


Specifications

Governments world-over understand the potential of VCs, and the fact that many standards and specifications are going to co-exist over the next few years. This is why different specifications emerged and depending on the assessment of the country and health solutions deployed, most of the countries adopted one of the four vaccine credential specifications : 


At Affinidi, we believe that these specifications will find common ground in the near future, so the VCs can be shared and used universally. In the meantime, we are creating the infrastructure required for scaling VCs and extending their usage for the future. To know more about this, join our community or email us.


Written by
Neeraj Jain, Director of Strategic Initiatives (Public Policy) - India, Affinidi

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