Apr 5, 2024

Buenos Aires' Secretary of Innovation and Digital Transformation Diego Fernández joins "First Mover" to discuss how QuarkID simplifies the process of accessing and verifying personal documents for citizens.

Video transcript

I got a firsthand experience in all the the friction and the burden that for regular citizens is just to obtain legal papers, birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates. For example, Senator, I have my great grandmother born in Italy, my grandmother, born in Uruguay and myself born here and being forced to deal with all that documentation demanded me over a year uh where you need to get this certification, this third party approvals and signatures that basically in a digital work made no sense whatsoever. I met Diego Fernandez, Buenos Aires, Secretary of Innovation at East Denver, where I interviewed him on stage about the way he's approaching digital identity in Buenos Aires. Last year, Buenos Aires released a Blockchain identity solution powered by ZK syncs ZK proofs. Now this allows citizens of Buenos Aires to store their birth and marriage certificates on chain a little bit of the technical stuff here. The program is based on a decentralized digital identity protocol known as Cork ID and relies partly on a technology from a company called Xtreme M. So how does this work? Well, citizens of Buenos Aires can download the wallet and claim their key personal identification documents like birth certificates and marriage certificates. Now, if you've never had to retrieve one of these documents from a government agency, you probably think that this is a novel idea, but I recently had to get my birth certificate and then let me tell you, it is a long and annoying process. Imagine that these documents could be stored on chain forever, easily accessible to you no matter how many times you move or how many devices you lose. This is the future that Diego imagines. He describes a scenario where someone might be able to enter a bar when they turn of age in the future. He imagines you don't need to actually show the bouncer of that bar your address or birth date. All you need to do is prove that you are a age to enter that bar and using zero knowledge proofs, you can do just that while protecting your personal information, Diego hopes that Buenos Aires can realize this future. And he tells me that the digital identity protocol is being integrated with the already existing central ID system there to bring 3 million people, the people who live in Buenos Aires on chain. He wants to make the broad so seamless that the people who are using this app have no idea about what's going on with the technology behind it. This makes total sense to me when I sent an email, I don't care about the technology behind that. And when I Open up Google Maps. I don't care how it works. I just want it to work could projects like this help accelerate mainstream adoption. Let's take a listen, Diego Fernandez. Welcome to first mover. Hi Dan. Pleasure being here. Diego. Talk to me about the work that you're doing with digital identity in Buenos Aires. Uh We have been working for the last two years in Buenos Aires with a bunch of these members of the crypto community in Argentina and worldwide because we received strong support from several organizations worldwide. Just to mention a few CKCNO model lab CK CYC, et cetera. And we develop a, a self sovereign identity protocol based on the international W three C standards that being Digital identity, digital identifiers or inver credentials following the technologies tack laid out by the Grao P Foundation. And uh we developed this protocol. It took us something like two years to come up with this and we open source protocol, everybody can, can download it from github. Uh You can go to Quark id.org and you can fork it, use it. Uh It's, it's based under the Apache 2.0 license. So everybody can use it. And we encourage every government private company organization to take advantage of the the technology because it's great, you're the Secretary of Innovation. So it's no surprise that you're looking to what kinds of technologies can help advance Buenos Aires. But talk to me about how the conversation around digital identity really started to become important for you uh as a government official. To be completely honest, I got involved in the digital identity real something like four years ago. Uh because of a personal experience of mine, uh I am Argentina born and raised here, but I wanted to get the advantage because of my great, great grandmother was an Italian to get the Italian passport, but mainly thinking about my daughter. But I, I mean I got myself into that uh project and I got a firsthand experience in all the the friction and the burden that for regular citizens is just to obtain legal papers, birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates. And how do you deal with overseas when you need to, for example, send I have my great grandmother born in Italy, my grandmother born in Uruguay, my father born in, in the province of Buenos Aires in Argentina and myself born here and being forced to deal with all that documentation demanded me over a year uh where you need to get this certification, this third party approvals and signatures that basically in a digital work make no sense whatsoever. And what's the reason behind that? Because we don't have, we didn't have yet a primary, a primitive, sorry for digital identity. And fortunately that is something that is being built all around the world today. You have the dyak in, in Canada, the A a in, in Europe, the Sy Pass in Singapore, the alliance in South Korea K ID in Buenos Aires and several other places in the region. And the main objective behind all of these initiatives is to get society rid of the friction that dealing with legal documentation demands. I mean, how do we build up a digital trust framework? And we could we can assure that the document that Jen signed and Dave on my behalf or, or give it to me is, is destinated to myself and it is officially signed by Jennifer. And how do we are able of ensuring regardless of third party involvement that that is true. And that would be a game changer. That would be a game changer in my humble opinion, as strong as the appearance of internet communications, email and so and so on the the created in the two thousands in the early two thousands, it will be a complete game changer. Diego. I gotta ask first before we move on. Did you get the Italian passport? I'm in the process. I think that in July I'll get it, my fingers are crossed for you. And I totally understand this process because I recently had to apply for a birth certificate um from Canada, I'm Canadian and it's just not as easy as it should be. It's very difficult. Uh Something that came up in the conversation that you and I had at East Denver was it's kind of crazy that a way to verify a document online is to take a picture of the physical copy you have and upload it onto the internet. Just it's, it really is not making sense. It doesn't. And the crazy thing is that today we have everything in our lives digitalized. I mean, people writing in pieces of paper in general, those type of notes get back to whatever digital million that you have. I mean, I don't know your doc slides, what, whatever, but we, we are not able of interpreting that data in, able to operate with the other party. So we need humans reading documents and just trusting that, I mean, the the whatever paper that you send me is original. The thing is that when you have to deal with sort of this important transactions of here, I'm gonna give you the citizen, the citizenship of my country. Hence I need to be sure that your documentation is real when you need to be sure about something and you don't have a digital trust fund framework. You rely on the analog frameworks which are very, very troublesome. And then you, you are faced with the type of things that you face when you are dealing with your birth certificate or that that I face when I was dealing with my, the birth certificates of my ancestors is really troublesome. All right, let's talk a little bit about the technology here. Um The existing protocol quirk ID is using zero knowledge, right? Uh Why zero knowledge? Why are you working with the ZK sync. What kind of process did you go through to figuring out what kind of tech technology could help make this um experience better for the people of Buenos Aires. It's a very good question. Well, the first thing was we needed something that was completely scalable. We needed something that was able of dealing with the thousands of transactions per second. And it was cheap because these, these are not financial transactions. We're not charging an X amount of uh I don't know why amount of dollars being transferred. What whatsoever these transactions are basically social and granting you a credential. Is your driver license or your birth certificate or your marriage certificate? So we need to the cost be extremely cheap, extremely cheap. I'm talking about I I mean, even less than a cent and we need it for that transactions to be extremely sure on the extremely safe or in the second hand and on the third hand, we were looking forward to a model in which an ecosystem of private parties was built around this technology. We didn't want it to be a, a state permission that all network because there's no value for us in that we wanted to build an ecosystem of, of players and and actors interacting with this technology in order to provide value to society. So we opted for zero knowledge proof because quark ID as a matter of fact, acts as a sort of a layer free. We have quark ID, we have CK sync as a layer two and we have the security of Ethereum as a layer one. And what this allows us is to sort of batch transactions together so we can do a whole bunch of transactions. Then we plug it in a zero knowledge proof and we anchor that in Blockchain. We have the complete security of a layer one Ethereum. But being able to optimize the the costs by using zero knowledge proof that on the firsthand side, on the second car side, zero knowledge proofs allow us to uh dos selecting disclosure. That means you don't need to reveal the whole part of your credentials. If you, for example, are 19 years old and you, and you need to go to a bar to have a beer, you don't need to show the bartender your, your address or your birth date or whatever information the bartender doesn't meet. The only thing that he or she need to prove is that you are plain in Argentina, the law is Platine. So if you, if you're able of handing out a proof that you effectively are plus 18, that's the only information that give bartender needs in order to provide you with the beer that you want. So selective, uh sorry, zero large proofs allows us to, to achieve that as well. And we selected uh CKC model lab because the they were really helpful. Our teams work together for one year plus uh with day to day conversations regarding how to implement this technology and we're extremely happy with it. Why? Because just to, to give you an idea of how this protocol works, the only thing that, that unchained because this is extremely important. The only thing that gets unchained is your digital identifier, which has no information whatsoever regarding yourself. All of the transactions that you, that you do implement uh main those credentials are done of chains are a peer to peer relationship that is extremely safe because you can have all your information chain and nobody is able of taxing you but you have the security that your identifiers are on chain. Hence nobody is able to tamper them. Now you told me recently that the digital identity protocol is being integrated into the centralized ID system and this could potentially bring 3 million people. That's the population of Buenos Aires on chain. How's this gonna work for citizens? Say I'm living in Buenos Aires. How does this work for me? Do I even know that this is happening? Well, ideally you shouldn't, I mean technology is for us nerds and geeks that love to know how things work and so on. But I mean, just to give you an example, I have no, I have not a clue on how my car works. I just get into a car and I press a button starts. Yeah. And if somebody, if the car doesn't start, I mean, I don't know what to do because I don't like cars. I mean, I'm not interested in the, in the technology behind cars, but there are certain people that love cars and most probably know what bottoms to price and what things to do. The same thing happens in technology. There are some of us who love technology and who like to understand what things happen sort of under the hood but regular users shouldn't. I mean, I always give this analogy that when I started working in technology, something like 30 years ago, the email was starting to be rolled out and configuring an email was an extremely technical stuff. You need to put MX records in your DNS servers and configure pop three or SMTP or IMAP or whatever you need to have some technical knowledge. But while that type of knowledge was required, email was not popular. Email became popular when solutions as for example, Gmail started and and wrote took the place by storm because it was extremely easy. Just with the wizard you get on, you get an email account and you were able to use it. We are using the same thing here. We have today 7 million registered users within the centralized ID systems in Buenos Aires, 3 million active users and 1 million users with a biometric scan. We as a security measure require users to have this level of three, this 1 million users that we already have biometric and when you, when we confirm that you are you because we did this biometric checkup, we made you your birth certificate and whatever documents what we are doing is we have these web two applications which is called me A which is stands for by Buenos Aires. And what we will do is essentially is is instead of having a central database where we hold all of the credentials and you download that, you download those credentials. When you open your applications, I'm gonna replace that centralized web two technology with Quark ID in July, August uh this year. So for users, it will be something as simple as having an update on their applications and having their credentials made, they will be, it will be pretty transparent, but they will start to see some advantages when they are able of checking certain information with a QR code or eventually integrating as we are right now, several private users or private companies which are starting to meet their credentials using work ID technology. So basically, once that happens, I could go to a bar maybe with a QR code or some other kind of identifier, they could scan that. I don't need to show my ID. So they don't need to know my address or, or my name and I would be able to get it. That's, that's kind of what we're hoping to happen. That is the idea, of course, I mean, in every big technological project when you're sort of targeting millions of users by far the most complex the stage is implementation adoption and that takes time. I mean that is much more slower and and painful that developing the technology, the technology is developed. And I think that we will need something like 2 to 3 years in order to gain mass adoption in Buenos Aires and in the region because we are working with several other provinces in Argentina which are as well taking that this technology and, and using it. But I'm pretty confident that in the next 2 to 3 years, we will start to see uh a shift. These are very big organizations, society as a whole takes time in order to move from one thing to another. But once this type of solutions of technology start to get sort of a expanded over certain regions that the growth rate accelerates pretty fast. You know, when we think about governments or when I think about governments, I should say I shouldn't generalize. Um I think about very slow moving um processes, processes that are hard to change processes that have been in place for a very, very long time. Uh Did you get complete buy in from your colleagues when you were implementing this? I know now you're talking about all their provinces that are looking into using the same technologies. Are, are you seeing a shift in the way that government embraces innovation or is it still a little bit of a fight for you. I mean, it's always a fight uh to be honest because as you said, I mean, governments are by definition, bureaucratic. Uh that, I mean, I, I, it's kind of logical now, we don't want governments that move, like, start up because then our reality would shift uh dramatically. But uh what I think is that today, uh the bull market helps in that direction. Uh If I would say, what are the two most sort of uh sexy technologies around? Well, I would say A I and Blockchain and everybody was in the, in the innovation arena and, and looking at what are, what is happening around the world. Well, Blockchain and A I are sort of the two main things that you need to be looking at. If you're not looking at Blockchain A I, something's happening to you. And uh I guess that being, although this self sovereign identity arena is kind of a very abstract and complex as it relies on Blockchain. It raises eyebrows. I would say, hey, hm, I want to know how that works. I'm interested and that on one side, on the, on the other side, what government officials and, and, and I need to give credit to, to the government of Estonia, Denmark, Finland. Uh in that, in that direction is everybody who's today in, in the public sector knows that the great problem that we have is not digitalization but interoperability. Today, we have these silos within governments and within organizations that do not allow us do not allow us to effectively interchange and interoperate information. So we all know that that's the most big thing that we are dealing with. And this type of technologies like work ID represents allows us to do a very effective and cheap interoperability for governments and for companies, you describe that so well, I I and anyone who's had to interact with any kind of a government agency, I think knows that often. It seems like they don't speak to each other. It's hard to get documentation from one government agency to another. And so what you're saying makes complete sense. This could, this could really solve that and make, make it easier for people who need to interact with their governments. Oh, it's terrible. I mean, regardless of the country of the city, how many times we are doing whatever thing in a government website and the government requests us to upload a PDF document that comes from another government agency. That is crazy. Uh But I mean, we're dealing with that type of things every day in our lives and that is what we need to get rid of because both systems are digital but they don't speak to each other. And if we, if we are sort of hoping that all of the government agencies and all of the private companies build a py api S or microservices or whatever backend interfaces, that's not, that's not gonna happen. That's not gonna happen. We don't have time for that. It will take us decades. Hence, this way of inter operating with a standard on the front end for me is, is, is the way to go. And the last thing I'm going to ask you is if you were to look into your crystal ball, what does the future look like for you when it comes to zero knowledge? And if I were to expand that out a little bit, I guess, you know, what does, what does the world look like? Where, where else might we see zero knowledge technology, where else might we see zero knowledge implemented? I think that we will see zero knowledge implemented pretty much everywhere because uh in this new 100% digitalized world, our private information is at risk. Uh and we are becoming every day more conscious about that. I mean, all of us use whichever password or, or login aggregators such as Google Apple or whatever. And we're putting in the hands of private companies, the our digital sales. And that is crazy. If I lose, if I lose access to my Google account, I will get sort of banned in 90% of the digital assets that I use in my everyday life. And I think that power should be given back to users, users should be able of holding and having their own identity regardless of governments or private companies or whatever. And um I think that zero knowledge proofs plays a very big role in that because we won't be so easily sending out photos of our passports, photos of our driver's license to whatever organizations need to know that we are weak. We, we are in the challenge of demonstrating in a digitally provable manner that we are we without giving information and knowledge proof is the name of the game.

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