Crypto-technologies are only half of what makes an SSI ecosystem work; the figure below illustrates the necessary layers for such a system. The fourth layer, governance, is easily forgotten in favor of focusing on the technology, but an ecosystem will not work without it. In a global society, where benevolence cannot be assumed, deciding whom to trust within an ecosystem is a challenging task.

Its illusionary to hope (and maybe not even desirable) that there is one global SSI-ecosystem. It is far more likely that there will be sector-specific ecosystem with their own governances and crypto-layers. Within sectors, there may already be national governing bodies: within the educational sector, there are national and regional accreditation bodies. This does not mean that the SSI-world is fragmented and incompatible: DIDs would work across ecosystems, and so could VCs; it is up to the governing body of each ecosystem to decide which other ecosystems to trust. For example, the educational ecosystem of Switzerland might be governed by swissuniversities, and they might decide to trust VCs issued within the educational ecosystem of the North American Higher Learning Commission.

Thus, within national contexts, entities such as the operators of national research and education networks, will be essential partners; these have traditionally been the providers of similar services in the education sector, including central identity services. These organizations are already networked—in more than one meaning of the word!—with the computing centers at colleges and universities.

On the crypto-utility layer, open-source technology will be an essential component to build trust in academic environments. These security-relevant layers need to be open for inspection. It is important to note that maintaining this utility layer will incur real cost and might be handled by commercial companies or public–private partnerships.

Finally, the federation needs mechanisms for identity assertion to, where necessary, associate DIDs with real-life individuals (which may be the case less often than one might guess!). Due to the high level of international mobility in the academic sector, insular solutions relying on only one national type of government-issued digital „ID card“ will be insufficient.