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IMPULSE: European alliance to facilitate online identification in public services

Security, privacy, and ease-of-use will be the central concepts of IMPULSE (Identity Management in PUbLic SErvices), a European Horizon 2020 project that kicks off this month. Coordinated by Gradiant, a team of 16 entities from 9 different countries will use Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain to improve online identification processes.

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Digital processes are increasingly used by citizens. The current health crisis around the world has limited personal interactions, digitising all kinds of procedures. This brings a number of problems, not only for those unfamiliar with the complex identification systems on the internet, but also for those who are not comfortable providing their personal data online. IMPULSE seeks to be a tool to simplify the digitisation of the European public sector as a result of a comprehensive assessment on how the use of disruptive technologies may impact society from technical, socio-economic, legal, ethical, policy, and standardisation standpoints. IMPULSE will work on the concept of Electronic Identity (eID) – the way users can identify themselves (and be identified) through the network – and its implications in multiple contexts. The initiative has a budget of around €4 million. The 16 partners that make up this multidisciplinary consortium will create a tool to meet all the ethical, legal, and social requirements, so that the tool may be adopted for public services in all the countries of the European Union, regardless of their culture and degree of digitisation. IMPULSE will become the clear representation of an efficient, useful, and responsible modernisation by combining Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain to offer a technological advantage over other systems used today. At the project kick off meeting earlier this week, all partners confirmed their optimism about the results that the initiative will offer and the pace of work that is expected to be maintained throughout the 3-year project thanks to the experience and expertise of those involved.

“The digitisation of public administration services is one of the seven flagship initiatives identified in the NextGen Europe programme, which gives an idea of the strategic dimension of IMPULSE. In this context, the project was born with a clear objective of facilitating the access of citizens to these services but without giving up the maximum guarantees of security, something essential if we want to move towards a fully digitised and inclusive society”

Luis Pérez Freire – Gradiant (the Spanish Research and Technology Organisation leading the IMPULSE project)

Digitizing the public services is not just a matter of technical infrastructure, rather a multi-stage question of ethics and justice. There is the non-trivial question of regulating digital technologies in a way that guarantees the full protection of personal data. But it is also important to recall that accessibility and quality of public services are fundamental prerequisites of democratic participation in social life. This links techno-regulation and ethics with politics. And this is the strategic horizon in which IMPULSE will play a ground-breaking role.

Antonio CarnevaleSenior Researcher at CyberEthics Lab. and the company’s contact point in the project

We are proud to participate, together with highly qualified partners, in a project as prestigious and ambitious as IMPULSE. We will strengthen the consortium with our ability to work in multi-disciplinary teams, an ability refined over years of presence at important institutional tables, even at the international level, with public institutions and private technology companies. “During the project, we will be responsible for the management of the entire process of Innovation and we will be involved in the development of the general plan for the dissemination and exploitation, at a pan-European level, of the project results. We will contribute to the project with our long experience in digital identity for the public sector, achieved thanks to the role of Identity Provider for SPID, the Italian Digital Identity Schema. Moreover, in the field of distributed identity based on blockchain technologies, we will support the consortium with the know-how developed thanks to DIZME, a decentralized digital identity platform, conceived by InfoCert, which combines the world of Self Sovereign Identity with eIDAS regulatory compliance. In conclusion, IMPULSE is an important opportunity, even more so if the results will be functional to the identification of new potential areas of application of Digital Identity at the European level and not limited to the public sector.

Carmine AulettaChief Strategy & Innovation Officer at InfoCert

AI and blockchain for electronic identification processes

In a world where it is increasingly common to carry out all kinds of processes online, avoiding fraud and deception is only possible with first-class technology. Funded under the call Transformative impact of disruptive technologies in public services (DT- TRANSFORMATIONS-02-2018-2019-2020), IMPULSE will develop a system to respond to the needs of both citizens and public servants in digital processes.

IMPULSE’s innovation focuses on combining two of the most promising technologies available today, that is Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain networks. The project’s goal is to improve the management of digital identity and electronic identification in the public sector. Today we have technology with the potential to overcome these challenges so its application in the field of digital identity will substantially improve the existing electronic identification systems at the time legal, privacy, or social issues requiring further analysis may raise.

Most citizens have an electronic identity card to carry out the authentication processes with the online services offered by the administration; however, its use is cumbersome due in large part to the lack of user-friendly interfaces for the common citizen. To overcome this adversity, IMPULSE will incorporate advanced face biometrics and document validation techniques based on AI to facilitate identification processes and provide the user with a digital onboarding experience that is fully transparent.

In addition, blockchain technology and the use of smart contracts will add trustworthiness in the process, providing mechanisms for users to demonstrate their identity without the need to disclose their personal data to third parties, who are a priori considered to be less reliable. In this way the citizen will maintain total control of their data and will be able to verify at all times the use that is being given to them.

16 high-profile partners

The consortium, made up of partners from Spain, Italy, Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Finland, Iceland, France and Denmark, is funded by the European Union with €4 million under the Horizon 2020 programme. Partners from Italy will receive a total of €976.625 in funding. The complete list of partners is included below.

  1. Gradiant (coordinator – Spain)
  2. LappeenrannanLahden Teknillinen Yliopisto (Finland)
  3. Agency for European Integration and Economic Development (Austria)
  4. Association du Pole de Competitivite Transactions Electroniques Securisees – DIH (France)
  5. Aarhus Municipality (Denmark)
  6. Departamento de seguridad del Gobierno Vasco (Spain)
  7. Gijón City Council (Spain)
  8. Municipality of Peshtera (Bulgaria)
  9. City of Reykjavik, Department of Services and Operations (Iceland)
  10. Unione italiana delle Camere di commercio, industria, artigianato e agricoltura (Italy)
  11. CyberEthics Lab. Srls (Italy)
  12. ALiCE Biometrics (Spain)
  13. Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (Germany)
  14. Tree Technology SA (Spain)
  15. Infocert S.p.A. (Italy)
  16. DIN Deutsches Institut für Normung e. V. (Germany)

About CyberEthics Lab.

With 10 currently active projects in diverse technological domains, CyberEthics Lab. is a well-established company in the European research scene. This Italian SME leverages the experience and knowledge of its multidisciplinary core members, who teach at the University and work on numerous R&D activities in the context of inter-disciplinary research projects. CyberEthics Lab.’s main focus is a holistic vision of innovation, generated by efficiency, scientific curiosity and respect for human beings, where ideas, techniques, tools and methods from different disciplines are integrated to make innovative, secure and responsible technology. CyberEthics Lab.’s offering is mainly based on promoting innovation as well as creating ethical awareness and promoting ethical behaviour to build confidence and trust, as well as the promotion of the inclusion of legal and ethical concerns in the design and implementation of technologies, the identification of risks on individual fundamental rights and the issuing of recommendations in order to make technologies compliant with ethical principles and the current legal framework. CyberEthics Lab. members have also a long experience on technology implementation, with expertise on disruptive technologies such as blockchain and smart contracts (specifically addressed in PoSeID-on and PHOENIX projects as well).

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Main role in IMPULSE

CyberEthics Lab. will support the entire consortium in ethical and legal concerns, issuing initial guidelines for the research process, leading the completion of the Ethics and Data Management Plan, and contributing to the assessment of the IMPULSE technologies with its own methodology. As a result, CyberEthics Lab. will conduct a multidisciplinary analysis of standards, legal, and ethical implications. CyberEthics Lab. will also act as technological provider of Smart Contracts templates for the enforcement of the data subject privacy rights thanks to its previous experience.

About InfoCert

InfoCert, Tinexta Group, is the largest European Certification Authority, active in over twenty countries.  The company provides services in digitisation, eDelivery, Digital Signature and digital preservation of documents and is an accredited AgID digital identity operator in the area of SPID (Public System for the management of Digital Identity). InfoCert invests significantly in research and development and in quality: it holds a substantial number of patents while the ISO 9001, 27001 and 20000 quality certifications bear witness to the highest-level of commitment in the provision of services and security management. The InfoCert Information Security Management System is ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certified for EA:33-35 activities. InfoCert is a European leader in the provision of Digital Trust services that are fully conformant with the requirements of the eIDAS Regulation (EU Regulation 910/2014) and ETSI EN 319 401 standards. The company aims to increasingly expand at international level, including through acquisitions: it holds a 51% stake in Camerfirma, one of the principal Spanish certification authorities and a 16.7% stake in Authada, a leading-edge German Identity Provider. Finally, InfoCert owns an 80% shareholding in Sixtema SpA, the technological partner of the CNA (National Confederation of Italian Artisans and Craftsmen and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises), which provides technological solutions and consultancy services to SMEs, traders’ associations, financial intermediaries, professional firms and entities.

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Main role in IMPULSE

InfoCert is an entitled Trust Service Provider (TSP), which is a critical figure in the IMPULSE project. In addition, Infocert will oversee innovation and exploitation management and is charged with disseminating the project’s findings. Moreover, InfoCert will contribute to the analysis and implementation of the trust components of the project, including the Decentralised Public Key Infrastructure (DPKI), the CA and the RA.