IATA endorses the EUDCC. But will it matter?

In a Bredemarket blog post in February 2021, I quoted something that I wrote in 2013 in one of my personal blogs, Empoprise-BI.

I’m sure that many people imagine that standards are developed by a group of reasonable people, sitting in a room, who are pursuing things for the good of the world.

You can stop laughing now.

As I noted back in 2013, and again in February, there are many instances in which standards do not evolve from a well-designed process. In reality, standards emerge via that process that I referred to in February as “brute force.”

By イーストプレス – 「ゴング格闘技」=1951年のブラジル地元新聞からの転載, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13320163

For those who are not familiar with the “brute force” process, I’ll provide two illustrations.

  • If a lot of people like something, it’s a standard.
  • If a trillion dollar company likes something, and I like something different, then the thing that the trillion dollar company likes is a standard.

If two trillion dollar companies like two different things…it can get messy.

Back in February, I was just beginning to talk about something that I called “health passports” at the time. Later, I personally decided that “health passports” is a poor choice of words, and have instead gravitated to using the phrase “vaccine certificate.”

Regardless, my concern back in February was that there were all sorts of these things floating around. Even back then, Clear had its own solution, IATA had one, IBM had one, iProov had one, Daon had one, and there were many, many more.

So what happens if I have a Clear vaccine certificate but the airline or building that I’m approaching supports the iProov certificate? Can the iProov certificate read the Clear certificate? Or do I have to get multiple certificates?

This post looks at a new development in the vaccine certificate brouhaha. I’m not talking about what vaccines are honored by the vaccine certificate, but about acceptability of the vaccine certificates themselves. In particular, I’m talking about acceptance of one certificate, the EU Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC).

Because one big player is getting behind it.

How do international air transport folks feel about the EUDCC?

While the EUDCC can conceivably be used for a number of use cases, such as entering a private business like a restaurant, one of the most popular use cases for the EUDCC is to board an airplane that is crossing an international border.

So if there was an organization that was dedicated to the business of flying airplanes across international borders, and if that organization thought that the EUDCC was pretty cool, then that endorsement would have as much pull as Google (and Facebook) endorsing a web image format.

Enter the (drumroll) International Air Transport Association, which issued a press release on 26 August.

The title?

“IATA Backs European Digital Covid Certificate as Global Standard.”

Now those who read my February post will recall that IATA was one of those groups that was already developing its own vaccination certificate. So how does the EUDCC compare with the the IATA Travel Pass?

The DCC…is fully supported by IATA Travel Pass.

But in addition to mere self-interest, there is another reason why IATA is endorsing the EUDCC: it’s supported by a lot of countries inside the EU, and other countries are looking at the EUDCC as a model.

The EU DCC is implemented in the 27 EU Member states and a number of reciprocal agreements have been agreed with other states’ own vaccination certificates, including Switzerland, Turkey, and Ukraine. In the absence of a single global standard for digital vaccination certificates, up to 60 other countries are looking to use the DCC specification for their own certification. 

Oh no, I’m just looking

However, it’s one thing to be “looking” at something, and another thing entirely to actually “do” something.

Before assuming that the EUDCC will become the de facto DCC, consider how two countries in particular will approach it.

This image or media was taken or created by Matt H. Wade. To see his entire portfolio, click here. @thatmattwade This image is protected by copyright! If you would like to use it, please read this first. – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5004719

One of those countries is my own, the United States of America. While one can argue whether or not the U.S. enjoys the same level of power that it enjoyed immediately after the end of the Cold War, it is still a major player in world economic and travel affairs. And regardless of who the President of the United States is at any given time, the U.S. has often decided to go its own way. Couple this with the power of individual U.S. states in my country’s federal system, and it’s quite possible that even if the U.S. goes along with IATA, and some form of the EUDCC is adopted by our Transportation Security Administration, that does not necessarily mean that the same certificate can be used as it is in Europe to grant access to museums, sporting events, and concerts.

The other country that may have an issue with the EUDCC is China. If the United States is potentially a waning world power, China is potentially a gaining world power. The relationship between China and the rest of the world varies from time to time and from issue to issue. China may decide that it’s not in its best interest to adhere to an international standard for certifications of COVID vaccination, testing, or contraction. And if it’s not in China’s best interest, China won’t do it.

So before declaring that IATA endorsement of the EUDCC settles the issue…we’ll see.

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