“e-IDentify yourself” OeNPAY Electronic Identity Challenge: An interview with the winner


The jury selected Karen Schwien as the winner of the “e-IDentify yourself” OeNPAY Electronic Identity Challenge. Her idea of a secure, modular metaverse identity stood out from the other 156 entries and was honored with EUR 3,000 in prize money. In this interview, the winner talks about her motives and presents her idea.

The winning idea in a nutshell

The use case would provide users with a secure electronic identity in the metaverse or web3, but without them having to divulge too much personal information. Specifically, Karen proposes a modular eID solution: While it is a fully-fledged subjective digital identity, its scope is tailored to different contexts, so it does not necessarily point to a real person. This would go a long way towards enhancing individual user security and privacy in web3.

Interview with the winner, Karen Schwien

I think digital identities are a key future topic for two main reasons: They provide the foundation for secure and fair digital transactions, and they allow people to experiment in the digital realm and create different identities for different contexts.

I am fascinated by digital innovation, and the metaverse has been all the buzz since Mark Zuckerberg’s presentation. So I have been paying increasing attention to the metaverse and web3. This field of application is especially exciting for eID solutions, as it opens up many new opportunities. For instance, protecting your online identity is essential when handling crypto assets, which may continue to play a significant role in web3. In my academic work, I focus on subjective identities in the digital sphere. Ensuring security is one aspect, experimenting and playing around is another. I have been very much inspired by the book Coming of Age in Second Life, which describes what matters to people in 3D worlds, how they reinvent themselves and how analog and digital identities influence each other.

I am fascinated by digital innovation and communicate about it with other people on different networks. I have been able to pursue this fascination in my professional life, too, first as an IT consultant and now in a project on platform-based online work. Digital identity has come up as an issue time and again, for instance in connection with cybercrime and hate speech on social media, privacy, efforts to simplify transactions, identity verification and the creation of new identities, e.g. in gaming.

The metaverse opens up an enormous space for new ideas. Co-creating the future of this digital world is especially fascinating to me. On the one hand, it offers advantages in that it facilitates online communication that encompasses body language or in that it provides new venues to meet, communicate and work together for people who never would have met otherwise, and other opportunities that the web 2.0 and the analog world just do not offer. On the other hand, this world can also give rise to negative effects: crime and areas of legal vacuum, high energy consumption and the associated environmental problems. Right now, we cannot tell whether the advantages will outweigh the disadvantages.

I work as a research associate for the Crowdwork project and at the professorship for vocational and occupational education at Helmut Schmidt University. After completing my studies in business administration and business psychology, I worked as a change management consultant in the IT sector.

All submitted ideas for the “e-IDentifizere dich!” – OeNPAY Electronic Identity Challenge can be found here.

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