The government's digital identity strategy took its biggest leap forward opening up a grant program with $10 million in funding for pilot projects it hopes will eventually anchor a national infrastructure.
The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), introduced in April 2011, outlines the parameters for an "identity ecosystem" to be built and managed by the private sector and other non-government entities.
In addition to the pilot program, NSTIC also said in the next two weeks it would release recommendations for its pivotal Steering Group, a selected collection of industry leaders and stakeholders from outside the government to help direct policy and standards adoption. NSTIC also plans to hold on Feb. 29 at the RSA Security Conference in San Francisco an update session that will feature Howard Schmidt, the White House cybersecurity coordinator.
NSTIC, which is run by the Commerce Department, on Wednesday called on higher education, hospitals, non-profits, commercial businesses and governments to propose, build and test technology, identity models and frameworks to support a standards-based identity infrastructure.
The formal announcement of the Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) for pilot programs lays out available funding, eligibility and a timeline for proposal submission and approvals.
NSTIC hopes to fund five to eight pilots with $1.25 million to $2 million each. Those pilots will focus on identity projects that are "privacy-enhancing and voluntary, secure and resilient, interoperable, and cost-effective and easy-to-use."
The program is not about a national ID card, but about an identity network to help stimulate and secure online interaction and transactions. It is analogous to ATM banking system where credentials issued by private entities (banks) work among multiple systems.
Each pilot program will be funded for up to two years, according to the FFO.
"There is nothing that would preclude us from considering pilots that can be accomplished faster," said Jeremy Grant, senior executive advisor for identity management at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which heads NSTIC's national program office. "I fully expect we will get some pilot applications that propose to accomplish great things over a shorter period. "
The grant plan calls for abbreviated proposals to be submitted on March 7. Finalists from that group will be selected March 22 and finalists' full proposals are due April 23. The pilots selected will be announced in July and the pilot testing should start in September.
NSTIC, will host a Proposer's Conference on Feb. 15 in Washington, D.C. where potential grant applicants can learn about the pilot program.
In November, the government approved $16.5 million in funding for NSTIC as part of the 2012 federal budget.