Data Portability and the Digital Person 

Data Portability and the Digital Person 

The future of the digital person lies in data portability, decentralisation and community

Last week saw much discussion around data portability, community and decentralisation at the 5th Annual Symposium of the Digital Person, which debated the current state of the digital person whilst uncovering various ecosystem endeavours looking to improve this state globally. 

The Symposium on March 1 kicked off with Dataswyft CEO Irene Ng’s presentation on the current state of the HAT Ecosystem. Irene discussed Dataswyft’s data portability technology in the context of solving the problem of today’s centralised systems with decentralisation, which allows data to be used safely outside the scope of data regulations (because the data sits with the data subject) while ensuring the subject remains at the centre. Irene also looked at the market drivers for 2022, specifically in the sectors of finance, health, and tourism, while considering the challenges and opportunities ahead. (View presentation slides)


The Ecosystem segment of the Symposium showcased how data portability could be applied in various sectors. In the tourism sector for instance, trip-planning platform wants to use Data Passports to establish data consent between traveller communities, governments and NGOs, and the private sector as they work towards a more sustainable tourism future. CEO Mike Welling also touched on data portability use cases in Australia, focusing on tourism recovery, trails and adventure tourism, indigenous tourism, and biosecurity. 

In finance, data portability is being seen as a way to broaden the growth trajectory of financial markets in Southeast Asia, a region experiencing an expanding array of data-generating tech platforms as growing segments of the economy are becoming digitised, According to IFC/World Bank Senior Financial Specialist Ivan Mortimer-Schutts, market structure and firm strategies in the region’s finance sector are still evolving even as new data issuers and banks experiment with different partnership models. 

In health, the SejutaKG weight-loss tracking platform uses its Digital Data Passports to help users keep track of their health progress and provide verified health data to third parties. According to CEO Gabriel Ng, verifiable behaviour is key to addressing modifiable behavioural risk factors that contribute towards noncommunicable diseases. Data portability tools enable SejutaKG to provide personal data visibility to stakeholders such as doctors and nutritionists to help them deliver affordable, personalised intervention at scale. (view the presentation slides)

The Symposium also saw Urban Systems CEO Wilfred Pinfold expand on his pre-Symposium conversation as he discussed the use of Data Passporting and PDAs in the context of smart cities, and tapping on community building through to building a smart city transaction platform such as a Citizen App that can reduce friction (and hence cost), build trust and enable new services. 

Catch up on all the Ecosystem presentations on our YouTube channel 


The afternoon’s academic panel session with moderator Dr Jim Spohrer and Professors Jon Crowcroft, Youngjin Yoo and Irene Ng was a stimulating discussion on digital identity and personal data in the context of the digital person.

Cambridge University’s Jon Crowcroft kicked off the conversation by considering digital identity as a cornerstone of the digital economy. As this requires very strong levels of trust between stakeholders, he explored the risks and threats as well as considerations about emerging systems that are distributed, federated and decentralised for identity, using similar architectures to the personal data stores themselves. 

Case Western Reserve University’s Youngjin Yoo looked into how digital identity and personal data layers will likely be the key battleground as next-generation digital platforms emerge, with new digital identity and personal data models powering decentralised, federated, and hybrid service models. In an emerging Web 3 platform architecture, emphasis should be placed on persons as social actors to honour their rights and agency, he added.

Warwick University’s Irene Ng considered the state of the digital person, addressing the Symposium’s problem statement of equity and economic justice as well as freedoms accorded to the digital person. She discussed how the market will form for a property rights system, and how representation of the digital person is the battle for three things: the “potential” of the digital person in data;  the “kinetic” value of data mobility; and finally,  the “agency” of the digital person supported and assisted by computation, processing, AI and machine learning. 

View the presentation slides: 

5th Digital Person Panel Discussion (Jim Spohrer)

Digital Identity & Trust: Cornerstones of the Digital Economy (Jon Crowcroft)

The End of the Beginning: The Emergence of Next-Generation Digital Platforms (Youngjin Yoo)

State of the Digital Person: Progress, Challenges and Opportunities (Irene Ng)


The Symposium on the Digital Person is an annual event organised by the HAT Community Foundation (HCF) and Dataswyft as a unique cross-disciplinary environment for a robust discussion on the “state of the digital person”. The theme for this year’s Symposium was The Empowered Digital Person: Global Projects with Data Passports and Personal Data Servers, addressing the problem statement of equity and economic justice, as well as how Personal Data infrastructure technology is now unlocking entire markets for SMEs across verticals.

Symposium participants include industry captains, policy makers, government representatives as well as thought leaders from the sciences, humanities and social sciences domains who come together for discussions relating to law, computer science, history, sociology, entrepreneurship, business, economics and the global society. 

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