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Let’s Go – Together!

By November 24, 2021Blog

GHP Guardianship Blog
John Phillips and Jo Spencer

Does international travel only ever involve independent adults?

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for trusted sharing of verifiable data and the use of digitally-enhanced credentials. Check-in apps may or may not be a temporary requirement whilst we get on top of the pandemic, but the need to present a combination of tickets, visas, identity “documents” and vaccination certificates has always been a challenge for travel and other scenarios. The more you have to show, and the more complex the rules that need to be applied, the more complicated it becomes for all involved. The need to “open-up” safely and support domestic and international travel, as vaccinations roll out widely, gives us the opportunity and need to consider how best to build trusted travel information sharing solutions based on global standards, open software and governed participants and rules.

One of the realizations and perspectives resulting from nearly 2 years of work on guardianship (for minors or adults who need care) is that our societies and economies are not made of independent adults alone, and yet that is all too often an implicit assumption in the way we design and build solutions using digital interactions. Having come to this realisation, we now see this challenge everywhere that digital solutions and interactions are proposed. We need to consider how best to provide support for dependent minors and adults and their guardians in travel, as we should for all affordances in human life.

The Good Health Pass Interoperability Blueprint is an international effort of more than 120 people from many organizations and countries. A few months ago, we (Jo Spencer and John Phillips) were asked by chairs working on the Blueprint to write an addendum for guardianship to consider how travel for accompanied and unaccompanied minors and adult dependents might best be enabled with digital health and travel passes.

After several months of work, incorporating the team from the Sovrin Guardianship Working Group and others, with valuable insights from several airlines and people working with International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Guardianship addendum is ready for formal publication. 

You can download the Addendum PDF directly or find it on our Tools & Specifications page.

The GHP Blueprint provides a comprehensive framework for the processes of registration, credential construction and travel planning catered to the use of digital and physical verifiable credentials. However the first release doesn’t cater for supported travel and the resulting process and credential implications.

Travel by accompanied and unaccompanied dependents is all too often not considered by designers – it’s not part of the ‘normal’ flow. A minor consequence of this is poor journey experiences and inconvenience for the carers and their dependents, the major consequence is that it exposes vulnerable people to exploitation and travel companies to risk and liability.

The addendum looks to add value into the GHP Blueprint in the consideration of supported travel. It uses the approach and “mental model” developed within the Sovrin Guardianship Working Group and articulated in the ESSIF-Lab Framework Mental Models

The expectation expressed in the addendum is that as travel restrictions are eased, we will see a large up-tick in family travel and hence addressing the need for parents holding digital and digitally-enabled credentials was worth addressing. During the development of the addendum it became obvious that existing processes and practices followed by airlines and others are often informal and most written considerations are aimed at the specific case of travelling minors (rather than travelling dependent adults). The use of digital credentials would need to be able to add levels of trust into the process of registration-departure-travel-arrival and provide practical enhancement and efficiencies, without creating a burden. Current transit processes are generally not focused on providing proof of guardianship statuses, even for unaccompanied travel scenarios.

Applying the developed models of guardianship, using the flexibility of Verifiable Credentials and the trusted mechanisms of sharing VCs, can provide the ability to add guardianship credentials into the travel process (or not) without breaking the existing approach and complicating the technical details defined in the Blueprint. 

In future releases of the Blueprint, we’ll look to incorporate considerations of supported travel and guardianship throughout the Blueprint. For now, the addendum provides an overview of the implications and insights into how accompanied and unaccompanied travel scenarios can be enhanced, efficient and trusted.

Thanks to those involved. Key GHP contributors to meetings and content include Jo Spencer, John Phillips, Judith Fleenor, Karine Boulet Gaudreault, Kaliya (IdentityWoman) Young, Rieks Joosten, Sankarshan Mukhopadhyay, Sterre den Breeijen, Tim Janssen, Victor Syntez, and Xiang Wang.