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Event report | Publication

Canada-EU Joint Workshop Series for Enabling Interoperability and Mutual Support for Digital Credentials: Results and next steps

The Commission, with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, held a first series of workshops on mutual recognition of digital credentials.

Following the agreement on the CAN-EU Digital Dialogue in September 2020 to create a pool of experts from Canada and Europe to discuss principles for mutual recognition of digital credentials, DG CONNECT organised in collaboration with ISED a first series of workshops with the participation of policy and technical experts from both sides.

DG CONNECT and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) jointly led this series of workshops held from spring to summer 2021 to discuss interoperability and mutual support of digital credentials. The purpose of these workshops was to examine the current technology and policy landscape for digital credentials in both jurisdictions, to identify commonalities that could be built upon and gaps that could be filled, in order to enable interoperability and mutual support of digital credentials. From these discussions, a set of recommendations has been developed to take this work forward. DG CONNECT also sees these workshops as a starting point for future cooperation on research and innovation in areas related to digital identity and data sovereignty in the context of the Next Generation Internet initiative.

One of the key findings of the workshops was that Canada and the EU already use a variety of Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) and digital credential technologies, many of which are not interoperable with each other. In addition, different technologies and approaches to SSI and digital credentials are emerging in different economic sectors and at different levels of government, creating a risk of economic and jurisdictional technological silos. In addition, there are no standards for digital wallets, which creates a 'wild west' atmosphere in this space and jeopardises trust in the system and the potential for interoperability. To this end, the experts recommended that the two jurisdictions work according to the following common principles and approaches:

  • adhere to international regulatory standards and best practices;
  • enable a baseline compatibility between Canada and the EU regarding Digital Credentials and digital wallets;
  • comply, at minimum, with the published and endorsed World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) test suites;
  • adopt an approach that is both ledger- and feature-agnostic to prevent vendor lock-in.

Beyond these key findings and challenges, it was recognised that the Canadian and EU trust frameworks should address the identified risks of vendor lock-in, ecosystem fragmentation, and the potential of platform capture.

This series of workshops opens the door to multiple opportunities for continued collaboration and cross-pollination on digital credentials and digital trust services. The following recommendations aim to advance the interoperability and mutual support of digital credentials in Canada and the EU:

  1. cooperate on the development of digital credential standards and certifications;
  2. increase focus on joint proofs of concept and pilots for end-to-end digital credential use cases;
  3. establish mutual recognition for digital credentials and digital trust services through formal agreement(s);
  4. build adoption, awareness and support through concrete digital credential demonstrations;
  5. create shared repositories for digital credential technologies;
  6. foster continued engagement on digital credentials.

Next Steps

  • EC and ISED will discuss further the recommendations of the workshop report in the upcoming EU-CAN Digital Dialogue.
  • EC and ISED will explore the joint organisation of a concrete digital credentials demonstration event (Digital Credentials Interoperability Plugfest).
  • EC will cooperate with Canada in Research & Innovation areas pertaining to digital identity under the Next Generation Internet initiative.
  • The International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications - Government Advisory Body (INATBA-GAB) will organise a new series of workshop from September 2021 to February 2022 including a broader group of countries and building on the results of the CA-EU workshops.


Canada-EC Joint Workshop Series Report 2021