“Great content poorly presented usually fails to make its point. However content, regardless of how good it is, presented well, with easy to read sentences and supporting visuals, will usually create impact.”
This was the over-riding message I took from my recent interview with Ken Dagg who has just retired after over thirteen years of active service in Kantara.
In addition to participating in several Work Groups, Ken was the Chair of the Identity Assurance Work Group (IAWG), a member of the Leadership Council, and Secretary of Kantara Initiative.
His message is a lesson for all of us in the identity sector where so much of the content we create is page after page of heavy copy full of technical terms and acronyms. You’d be hard pressed to find a “normal” person able to explain what identity management is – most non-technical people in the industry also struggle.
So where did Ken learn this valuable lesson?
Back in the early 1970s,” he told me, “I was studying for a Masters in Electrical Engineering at Carleton University in Ottawa. In 1973 I had become really interested in the relatively new field of Computer Science which sat within Electrical Engineering as it wasn’t yet an independent discipline. My Masters thesis was entitled “Network Database Management System Performance Prediction Model.
Using the model I developed, I ran simulations of databases used by the University administration to help predict response times for changes being considered to the databases that were supporting areas like resource allocation, materials management and student records management. The model saved programmers time as they didn’t have to implement a design to find out how well it performed. I was really proud of the work I had undertaken – especially since the University was thinking about how they could sell it commercially.
After many long nights writing it all up – in long hand with hand drawn sketches of charts and diagrams – I submitted the draft to my supervisor. A week later he told me that it wasn’t good enough to be considered for a Masters thesis – though it might work as a project.
So I regrouped. To cut a long story short, I completed a couple of extra courses and discovered the joy of an electric typewriter and my drafting tools. I typed my thesis and included carefully drawn graphics and charts. This time I got the feedback that the content was really engaging and he felt that it would now probably stand up to scrutiny as a PhD thesis!
It is my belief that he had barely read the first draft submission because it had been so poorly presented. It was probably one of the biggest lessons I learned in my career. Always consider how your audience may need to receive your content. It has stood me well through my 50 years in the private and public sectors as a consultant, employee of the Canadian federal government and my volunteer work with Kantara. Develop good content and take the time to ensure that it is presented really well.”
So what got you into the field of identity?
In 2009 I started working with the Canadian Federal Government’s Cybersecurity Group, implementing a new online login system. The old technology needed to be removed and replaced with a whole new system – within eighteen months!
We knew that we needed to manage the emerging risks from online fraud and cybercrime without creating unnecessary friction for our end users and citizens. I always tried to bear in mind that there was a human on the other side trying to set up an account or access a service.
As Business Architect for the project, I was very conscious that we needed to manage people’s personal information carefully without opening up the risk of identity-related fraud. And that’s how I came across Kantara Initiative.
The Government of Canada knew it wanted Level 2 identity assurance. With Kantara’s permission we were able to quickly develop RFPs based on their Service Assessment Criteria. Those RFPs eventually became the basis of a project that allowed Canadian citizens to use their banking credentials to login to government services. The RFPs also supported two Canadian companies to become leaders in the field.
In 2010 the Government of Canada was asked if it wanted to become a Kantara Director at Large. I was identified as the alternative representative and actively participated on the Kantara Board for over four years.
After my retirement from the Government of Canada in 2014, I started to volunteer with Kantara. During this time, in addition to participating in many Work Groups, I held a number of roles including Chair of the Identity Assurance Working Group (IAWG), Leadership Council liaison to the Board, Treasurer and Secretary.”
What have you noticed most about Kantara’s evolution through your tenure. And what are your hopes for its future?
“The Work Groups continue to work on some really thought-provoking and thought-leading innovations and I really enjoyed the sense that I, working with other participants, got to influence how things develop across the sector. The things we discussed and the policies we helped inform really do benefit wider society. It might be altruistic, but I also think that being involved in Kantara has the potential to significantly improve society.
I’m very keen to see how Kantara develops further to meet sector needs. I’m hopeful we’ll see the inclusion of more and more members who rely on identity credentials (“relying parties”) and not just service and technology vendors.
As I am leaving Kantara, I am happy to see more focus on sectors like healthcare (like our partnership with the Carin Alliance) as I believe that is the way identity management is heading. People need to be able to use their ID credentials to appropriately identify themselves to relying parties so that those parties can be confident that they are dealing with whom they think they are dealing with. Additionally, people need to be confident that the information they are providing is being used as they expect it to be used. To make that happen, trust frameworks need to be in place so everyone – people and relying parties – can have confidence in the data and credentials being shared. I am positive that Kantara will have a leading role to play in keeping those trust frameworks firmly rooted. I also strongly believe that Kantara provides one of the, if not the, means to ensure that all parties can be assured that their expectations are being met.”
So, as you move into retirement, do you think you will miss it all???
I think I will, but for now I must confess to feeling rather tired and I am looking forward to spending time with the family and just chilling! It definitely feels like it’s the right time to step back. Where I could, I believe that I have set things up to leave Kantara in safe hands. I reckon the new leadership will manage just fine without me.
Well, Ken. We’ll certainly miss you and, on behalf of the Kantara Initiative Board, leadership and members, thank you for all you have done and have a very happy and restful retirement!