IT company SITA has said it is stepping up its commitment to developing a permanent “digital identity” to replace traditional passports for air travel.

SITA has become a “premium donor” of the Sovrin Foundation, an international non-profit organisation “focused on the advancement of self-sovereign digital identity”.

Self-sovereign means a lifetime, portable identity for any person, organisation, or object such as a passport, an airline ticket or simply a library card that allows the holder to present verifiable credentials in a “privacy-protecting way”.

A digital identity would use facial recognition technology to unlock the traveller’s personal information.

The company said its move will help speed up the development of a permanent digital identity accepted by governments, airlines or airports globally for use during air travel.

“We expect in the coming years that the development of a universally accepted digital identity will replace the traditional passport. This will allow travel across borders with any airline or airport while ensuring that you, as the passenger, remain in full control of your identity while providing actionable, trusted data only to appropriate parties such as border agencies,” said Gustavo Pina, director of the SITA Lab.

“The benefits include a reduced arrivals infrastructure, providing new opportunities to increase existing airport throughput by design and not expansion. Our work with the Sovrin Foundation will play an important role in unlocking that potential,” Pina added.

SITA said it is also working with governments, airlines and airports to “develop and deliver the benefits of travel” using a permanent digital identity.

SITA is an IT company in the air transport industry. The company said its technology is present in 1,000 airports, and provides technology solutions to about 40 governments around the world.