Working groups have made a significant contribution towards launching a lifelong identity for the academic community.
The authentication and authorisation infrastructure SWITCHaai has been a resounding success. For over 10 years, it has made work easier for university members by allowing them to log into a wide range of web services across all universities with a single password. The Swiss edu-ID, a new academic identity that users will set up themselves, is designed to do even more – providing temporary access for guests, for example. It will remain valid through the owner’s lifetime and can be applied to non-web-based services as well. As was to be expected, this project is proving to be a complex and ambitious undertaking on account of the many institutions, hundreds of services and hundreds of thousands of users involved.
Identity management is deeply embedded in universities’ processes. If the Swiss edu-ID is to succeed, it must be aligned with their identity and access management systems and their administrative processes. A critical review of the concepts by identity providers and service operators is needed in order to find a practicable common denominator. The infrastructure should be future-proof and should bring simplification and other benefits for individual institutions and the community as a whole. To this end, it is important to keep a close eye on other initiatives in the identity field, identify synergies and create interfaces.
A deeper understanding of local processes is necessary to design and implement Swiss edu-ID.Michael Pfister UNIBE, IT Services
Since the Swiss edu-ID includes personal details, additional issues arise in terms of data protection and security. The focus, however, is clearly on the needs of the universities involved and adapting the Swiss edu-ID to their structures.
Not all members of the working groups can benefit immediately from their efforts. Some universities will only see added value over the longer term. This makes it all the more crucial to ensure that all current and future working groups bring together visionaries and grounded realists alike to work on the transition from SWITCHaai to the Swiss edu-ID. It poses a challenge for every institution, which is why it is supported by the Advisory Board.
It's important to compare Swiss edu-ID with the institutional reality since it is a lot of investment and many changes to be implemented within organisations.Pierre Mellier EPFL, IT segment manager SI – Governance and Planning Administration
As an infrastructure project, it is also receiving support from swissuniversities. SWITCH is working with the universities on this forward-looking project to contribute substantially to Switzerland’s standing as a centre of research. Version 1.0 of the Swiss edu-ID went into operation in March 2015. It is used primarily for self-registration and only includes a small number of features. This makes it ideal for pilot projects and for firming up the architecture of Version 2.0, which will enable institutions to add new attributes to existing identities and grant – or refuse – access to services.
I was quite sceptical about how you would pull off Swiss edu-ID with those complex use cases. But the simple intriguing idea of using two models – ‹classic› AAI compatible and ‹extended› with additional Swiss edu-ID functionality – for delivering attributes to service providers is quite convincing.Lars Händler ETH Library, IT services
The release of Version 2.0 is not far off and will mark a key milestone on the way to establishing the new digital identity. This is only possible thanks to the expertise and real-world experience of the working group members.