Bob Blakley works for the Burton Group and has been involved in identity for some time. Writing about the recently launched Open Identity initiative with the US Government, he cited a reason why the announcement is big news, with which I strongly agree (from an American perspective, YMMV in other countries):
The second reason today’s announcement is a really big deal is that, after years of government attempts to create identities and assign them to citizens (via such bad ideas as the UK National ID scheme and the US REAL-ID act), a government has finally recognized that individuals already HAVE identities, and that it’s a better idea, for most purposes, to use these identities than to establish a new government bureaucracy to create new identities – especially if they’re identities people don’t want.
If this initiative succeeds, and I hope it does, it’s almost certain to be a much cheaper route to government consumption of reliable digital identities of citizens than something like REAL-ID would be. And it will preserve consumer choice at the same time as encouraging innovation in commercial identity technology.