Ten years (and one day) ago, someone posted a policy proposal to the Home Secretary. Ditch ID cards, the proposal said, they're guaranteed to fail, take a look at mobile phones and digital certificates instead – try dematerialised ID.
Cut a long story short, dematerialised ID hasn't exactly taken off.
Someone sees politicians and civil servants in a very different light ten years later.
But not the mobile phone. The mobile phone still looks singularly important. There's before the mobile phone. Then there's an energetic wrench in history and there's after the mobile phone.
"Any organisation which issues any voucher conferring any entitlement on the bearer could become a certificate authority and issue digital certificates instead of material vouchers" – that's the catchy theme of dematerialised ID placed bang in the middle of p.20 where the Home Secretary couldn't miss it.
He's not the only one to miss it.
Does your gym issue you with a digital certificate as proof of membership? Or your trade union? No. You still get a card to vouch for your entitlement to use the cross-trainer. Or your entitlement to pensions advice.
You still swipe a card to cross the border and get into your office building and your cinema ticket is still a piece of material paper, not a dematerialised digital certificate. As is your degree certificate.
You have a material passport and driving licence. They could both be digital certificates stored on your mobile and managed by passport and driving licence apps. Ditto your credit and debit cards.
At which point a lot of the vouchers that say to a stranger that you're you would be dematerialised. Thus dematerialised ID.
Clearly none of the instances of dematerialisation that someone was touting ten years ago was attractive enough.
Ten years of failure probably means it's a dead end. But just in case, don't forget, dematerialised ID – check back in 2023.
Forget the passport, just bring a phone, says the Times newspaper today, only 4,687 days after someone posted his proposal to the Home Office. We live in such a fast-moving globalised world, sometimes it's hard to keep up with the pace of innovation.