OpenID Outreach and the Government Opportunity 2


Executive Directors Summary
Now that we’ve had time to observe the reactions and resulting coverage from the Open Identity for Open Government Initiative, I want to discuss what we’ve gained and where we are headed.  Overall, the announcement, the foundations’ presence in Washington – at both The White House and the Gov 2.0 Summit, and the media outreach, was a big boost to OpenID adoption and the open identity community. For so long, the media and online influencers have taken a “looks promising but wait and see” approach to open identity technology. This announcement advanced the discussion.

The government’s effort underway is a pilot; a very deliberate beta test of OpenID technology with new integration and interoperability tasks etc. We don’t know when we will finish but we do know we will make mistakes and wrestle with usability and security issues.

We are at the beginning of a shakedown cruise on two tracks -the open source identity technologies and the open trust frameworks.  Both are parts of the GSA ICAM schema and both on the agenda of the OpenID Foundation and Identity (IDF and ICF) boards to consider.   Just as we begin technical testing with government pilots; we are also finalizing the certification or trust framework process a critical element in government adoption and seen by some industry leaders as applicable for high value commercial applications. The US government is still finalizing requirements for credible, independent and industry standards-based identity certification. Many international governments as well as US state and local governments are studying the US ICAM “schema” of technology protocols combined with industry self certification models. Identity provider certification or Open Trust Framework models have gained momentum after recent meetings with the Center for Democracy in Technology and feedback from various government agencies including the GSA ICAM leadership, NIST, NIH and the National Security Staff in the White House.

Given all the players involved it’s hard to say what will be completed when. The most valuable new dynamic is how many people and organizations are coalescing around a practical and far reaching solution set for the challenges of identity from a user perspective.  This goes beyond the tired truisms that often characterize privacy versus security debates.  There is today, a real hunger for real solutions in identity authentication. Whether you frame discussions as open government, open source or open identity; there are powerful political, public and commercial drivers at work involving identity on the web. New legal and policy discussions around open identity trust frameworks are a leading edge indication that practical solutions are in play and pragmatic (private and public sectors) organizations are involved

That being said, while the announcement resulted in approximately 30 stories, many of them were replays of the press release. I believe that speaks to two issues. The first is we announced a pilot. That means that once again, media can “wait” for the NIH implementation to go live and “see” what the results are. Second, this is a complicated story and requires more than a release to understand. The most comprehensive articles were the ones where the reporters were briefed in person.  The joint briefings by me, Drummond Reed, and the evangelism from Chris Messina, David Recordon and Kaliya, paid off in outlets like Federal News Radio, Tech Target, ReadWriteWeb, Wired and Fast Company.

Community and Collaboration
The other major take away was how well the OpenID and Information Card foundations and community leaders worked together on the initiative. The level of enthusiasm, cooperation and collaboration allowed us to accomplish much in a short period of time with limited resources. The announcement and conference served as a rallying event for the community and industry.  The government adoption of OpenID remained front and center in venues like the Tao of Attributes and the OASIS Meetings in Washington DC. See http://middleware.internet2.edu/tao-of-attributes/agenda.html and http://events.oasis-open.org/home/forum/2009

Emerging from these events is the term “OpenID” as a category catchall for the industry. This is most likely due to OpenID having strong recognition and society’s reliance on quick, sound bite, catchphrases, and the fact that OpenID has some very well-connected, well-recognized brands working on its behalf (Google, PayPal, etc) The industry, community and the two foundations will discuss how best to manage that moving forward at IIW, the OpenID Summit and boards meetings.

Outreach and Opportunity
Public relations, adoption and outreach, are processes not events. Open identity has gained momentum and is in a strong position to grow. Not only have we peaked interest with our pilot programs, but since the conference, there continues to be stories in the blogosphere, mainstream and tech media about the administration’s open government efforts.

I see several opportunities in front of us. The most obvious of course, is to continue to update the media on our progress: new pilots, new IdP’s, results from the NIH program etc. The other opportunity is a more proactive approach to communication. The open government story is in the news now. The foundations need to draft Op-Ed pieces and offer spokespeople from the community and companies to the media for commentary on the issues. We should continue to leverage our member company resources and our community talent pool as experts.  We know the media finds this story to be complicated. Let’s continue to brief them so that the next time we make a big announcement, they are ready with background information and we are ready with an open source, user centric perspective.


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