So, I started writing my literature review. If you can call it writing. I am certainly not adept at academic writing yet, but hopefully, I will learn. My current progress is more a collection of half garbled sentences or paragraphs that hopefully contain a reference.
It does feel good to get started though. It helps me to identify what it is I am looking for in the literature. Sometimes that is just finding a paper that agrees with a point I am making, other times I read a paper that provides a different insight to a section I am working on.
I began writing the cryptography up. All about signatures and anonymous credentials. However, I was struggling to frame what I was writing or why I was writing the things I was. I know and understand what a digital signature is and why it is used, just trying to explain it in words along with the relevant references is hard.
The cryptography will come in time I hope, but as it is just one part of my PhD I moved on to other more accessible areas, to begin with.
One such area which has proved very fruitful is on exploring identity management. With a focus on e-government and national identity card solutions. Systems that allow citizens to access public services online, some include smart cards for authentication. I have read about a range of different approaches for this and I have to say very few of them seem to have privacy as a major concern. The majority of them use a single unique identifying number as a primary key in all their databases. India’s Aadhar system has one unique number and one centralised database of the citizen’s personal information.
Creating such national identity systems certainly presents huge challenges. These can differ depending on the local context of the country. Particularly around the trust in government. We see the Nordic countries have generally accepted electronic identity cards wheras in the UK we rejected the national entitlement card due to privacy concerns.
I am thinking of possibly focusing my PhD on these national identity systems and describing how they might work in a Self Sovereign identity system. Or possibly just how one sector might work, for example, the NHS. We will see.
Reading non-mathematical literature has left me feeling a little better about my progress. Papers that I feel I can read, digest and understand. Rather than a cryptography paper where I maybe get 30% if I am lucky.
I am writing this a bit late this week. I spent the weekend redeveloping my website, it is almost ready! I have also been debating writing these articles. I probably will keep at it. It is certainly useful for me to reflect and review the previous week but who else is it useful for? I would like to start creating more domain-specific content, I guess the further I go on with this PhD the better I should be at that.
It is still a struggle. Doing a PhD is definitely tough. It is just you and the computer most of the time. It is hard to see your outputs, hard to know what you are working towards and hard to organise and efficiently use your time. Some days it is hard to even get out of bed. I am learning though, I am sure I will improve.
Next week, it will just be more of the same from me. Identity management systems, keep adding fragments to the literature review and just generally keep plugging away.