Husayn Kassai, CEO and Co-Founder of Onfido

Passport to freedom

Husayn Kassai, CEO and Co-Founder of Onfido investigates how tech and healthcare are merging to re-introduce ‘normality’ post pandemic.

Up until recently, that sense of ‘normality’ was beginning to return for the UK public. Now, with the UK entering into a national three-tier lockdown system, what ‘could have been’ feels uncertain.

Many companies are once again facing the headache of how to maintain their business remotely and stay afloat for the next two financial quarters. While this time around many will be more prepared, after having implemented remotely accessible services and COVID-19-compliant solutions, the challenge of interacting with their employees and customers in a ‘normal’ way persists.

But how do we go from surviving to thriving? New developments in healthcare and technology might have an answer.

At the end of April, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delivered the company’s first quarterly earnings report to Wall Street since the start of the pandemic. During this call, he said that he’d seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months as businesses underwent wholesale change to retain their ability to connect with customers, albeit in a remote environment.

Since the start of the pandemic, there’s no doubt that technology has been stretched, scrutinised and tested, but it has ultimately delivered against expectations. In many cases, it has been the sole vehicle for kickstarting the economy by supporting the re-opening of businesses and public services. For instance, in August, the UK economy grew by 2.1% thanks to the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme which was made possible by technology, and more importantly, the adoption of digital identities in track and tracing.

A digital identity allows an individual to prove their identity remotely and gives businesses assurance that the user is who they claim to be and not a fraudulent attempt. In eating out, it provides restaurants with the peace-of-mind that diners can be contacted in the case of virus transmission. While in other industries, like financial services, digital identities have kept companies in touch with their customers and provided remote accessibility where there was none before. Until July, 58% of consumers suggested they could not effectively use online banking platforms.

In what is a natural next step, digital identities are being used to help people return to normal life without fear of virus transmission. With one eye on the economy and the potential fall-out post-COVID-19, this has never been more critical.

Increasingly, digital identities are being tied to a new concept called a health passport. Simply put, a health passport is presentable proof of health – whether it be their current health status, if the individual has antibodies, or has had the vaccine. It is designed to help an individual prove that their test results belong to them, but without having to share any other personal information. An individual’s digital identity is bound to a test result, and this can be presented as a digital certificate showing only the information needed and nothing more, like a smartphone boarding pass. With any type of health passport technology, it must ensure that: information and data cannot be traded; consumer privacy and rights are upheld; the system is easy for individuals to use; the system can operate at scale.

With up-to-date test results easily accessible, presentable and securely tied to an individual’s identity, normality no longer feels unreachable. Employees can return to the workplace confident that the risk of transmission is low without having to give up unnecessary personal information. Similarly, they can be deployed conveniently for overseas travel, minimising fears of spreading or contracting the virus by fellow passengers and holiday-makers. Importantly, they’ve been proven to work too. We’ve recently partnered with Sidehide and Delfin Health to bring health passports to the health and travel industries, to accelerate a return to the experiences and joys of everyday life.

In its ever-evolving state, the pandemic continues to bring us all new challenges with many longing for the return to ‘normality’. In fact, research suggests that one-in-three miss the everyday meetings with their colleagues, while for Londoners, as much as 49% miss the office. However, any return to how life once was, needs to be done so with privacy, security and minimal risk.

With this in mind, the development and adoption of digital identities has been a positive step. As seen in financial services and the hospitality industry, this technology has enabled businesses to keep their services online, while as restrictions have lifted, allowed consumers to feel confident and secure in partaking once more in everyday activities. Now, as they are being tied to health passports, this is being taken one step further.

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