NSTIC set to fire up more identity pilots

The nearly two-year-old NSTIC effort is ready to commit more funding to building an online identity system to stimulate and secure online interaction and transactions.

The nearly two-year-old, government-facilitated effort to create an identity layer for the internet in the next few weeks will set in motion a new round of pilot program projects and funding.

The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) pilots are meant to cultivate ideas that will anchor an online "identity ecosystem" to be built and managed by the private sector. The idea is that the programs will build and test technology, identity models and frameworks to support a standards-based identity infrastructure.

NSTIC, introduced in April 2011, committed $9 million in September to fund five pilot programs that are currently under way. The pilots address issues such as secure transactions, privacy, ecommerce and federation. The five were selected from 180 applications submitted from higher education, hospitals, non-profits, commercial businesses and governments.

The NSTIC National Program Office (NPO) says this next pilot program kick off, which begins with a Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) notice, likely will start sometime before Feb. 5. That is the date for the next meeting of the NSTIC Identity Ecosystem Steering Group (IDESG) . The meeting is scheduled for Feb. 5-7 in Phoenix.

The funding amount for the new pilot awards is not yet set, according to the NPO, which said full implementation of the program and issuance of awards is subject to the availability of funds in the 2013 budget. 

In 2012, the U.S. federal budget earmarked $16.5 million for NSTIC. The money committed from that pot to the first five pilot programs represented nearly 55% of the NSTIC budget. The other money went to set up the NPO and cover other start-up costs.

The process to approve the first five pilot programs took six months from proposals to final selection. If this second round follows the same course, the new pilots could be active by August.

The NPO will hold a conference for potential pilot applicants on Feb. 5 before the  IDESG meeting. If the FFO is not approved before that day, the NPO will instead sponsor a networking session for potential applicants.

In addition, a second meeting for potential applicants will be held in Washington, DC in late February.

NSTIC 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 the ATM banking system where credentials issued by private entities (banks) are valid among multiple systems.

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