1. Introduction

1.1. Problem Statement: vendor lock-in

Target 16.9 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is to “provide legal identity for all, including birth registration” by the year 2030. But there is a major barrier: the lack of vendor/provider and technology neutrality - commonly known as “vendor lock-in”.

The lack of vendor and technology neutrality and its consequences becomes apparent when a customer needs to replace one component of the identity management solution with one from another provider, or expand the scope of their solution by linking to new components. Main technology barriers are the following:

  1. Solution architectures are not interoperable by design. The lack of common definitions as to the overall scope of an identity ecosystem, as well as in the main functionalities of a system’s components (civil registry, biometric identification system, population registry etc.), blurs the lines between components and leads to inconsistencies. This lack of so-called irreducibly modular architectures makes it difficult, if not impossible, to switch to a third-party component intended to provide the same function and leads to incompatibilities when adding a new component to an existing ecosystem.
  2. Standardized interfaces (APIs) do not exist. Components are often unable to communicate with each other due to varying interfaces (APIs) and data formats, making it difficult to swap out components or add new ones to the system.

For government policy makers tasked with implementing national identification systems, vendor lock-in is now one of their biggest concerns.


Fig. 1.1 The dependency challenge

1.2. The OSIA Initiative

Launched by the not-for-profit Secure Identity Alliance, Open Standard Identity APIs (OSIA) is an initiative created for the public good to address vendor lock-in problem.

OSIA addresses the vendor lock-in concern by providing a simple, open standards-based connectivity layer between all key components within the national identity ecosystem.

OSIA scope is as follows:

1. Address the lack of common definitions within the identity ecosystem – NON PRESCRIPTIVE

Components of the identity ecosystem (civil registry, population registry, biometric identification system etc.) from different vendors are functionally incompatible due to the absence of a common definition/understanding of broader functionalities and scope.

OSIA first step has been to formalize definitions, scope and main functionalities of each component within the identity ecosystem.

2. Create a set of standardized interfaces – PRESCRIPTIVE

This core piece of work develops the set of interfaces and standardized data formats to connect the multiple identity ecosystem components to ensure seamless interaction via pre-defined services.

Process of interaction among components (hence type of services each component implements) is down to each government to define and implement according to local laws and regulations.

With OSIA, governments are free to select the components they need, from the suppliers they choose – without fear of lock in.

And because OSIA operates at the interface layer, interoperability is assured without the need to rearchitect environments or rebuild solutions from the ground up. ID ecosystem components are simply swapped in and out as the use case demands – from best-of-breed options already available on the market.

This real-world approach dramatically reduces operational and financial risk, increases the effectiveness of existing identity ecosystems, and rapidly moves government initiatives from proof of concept to live environments.

1.3. Diffusion, Audience, and Access

This specification is hosted in GitHub and can be downloaded from ReadTheDocs.

This specification is licensed under The SIA License.

Any country, technology partner or individual is free to download the functional and technical specifications to implement it in their customized foundational and sectoral ID systems or components. Governments can also reference OSIA as Open Standards in tenders. For more information on how to reference OSIA please see Section OSIA Versions & Referencing.

1.4. Document Overview

This document aims at:

  • formalizing definitions, scope and main functionalities of each component within the identity ecosystem,
  • defining standardized interfaces and data format to connect the multiple ecosystem components to ensure seamless interaction via pre-defined services.

This document is structured as follows:

  • Chapter 1 Introduction: This chapter introduces the problem statement and the OSIA initiative.
  • Chapter 2 Functional View: This chapter provides an overview of OSIA interfaces and how they can be mapped against the various identity ecosystem components. Finally, the chapter describes a series of use cases where different OSIA interfaces are implemented between multiple identity ecosystem components.
  • Chapter 3 Security and Privacy: This chapter lists a set of Privacy and Security features embedded in OSIA interfaces specifications.
  • Chapter 4 OSIA Versions and Referencing: This chapter describes the way OSIA interfaces can be referenced in documents and tenders.
  • Chapter 5 Interfaces: This chapter describes the specifications of all OSIA interfaces.
  • Chapter 6 Components: This chapter describes OSIA interfaces that each component of the identity ecosystem may implement.

1.5. Convention and Typographical Rules

The key words “MUST”, “MUST NOT”, “REQUIRED”, “SHALL”, “SHALL NOT”, “SHOULD”, “SHOULD NOT”, “RECOMMENDED”, “MAY”, and “OPTIONAL” in this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119.

Code samples highlighted in blocks appear like that:

    "key": "value",
    "another_key": 23


Indicates supplementary explanations and useful tips.


Indicates that the specific condition or procedure must be respected.

1.6. Revision History

Version Date Notes
1.0.0 2019-01 First release
2.0.0 2019-06 New name, new logo
3.0.0 2019-11 PR & ABIS interfaces
4.0.0 2020-06 Enrollment & CMS interfaces, Security
5.0.0 TBD TBD