Last updated 04 June 2021 - Average reading time: Over 10 minutes
What are the positive effects of ID technology on society?
And how can citizens, public and private organizations reap these digital dividends faster?
You'll undoubtedly agree that it's no easy task to set up a national digital identity scheme, improve eGovernment services, AND get your citizens on board.
So why not leverage your digital ID program on tactics that are already proven to work?
In this web dossier, we would like to share:
- The most visible outcomes and benefits of digital ID
- Some of the best practices we gathered from the 40 eID initiatives we are contributing to.
Let's dive in.
Citizen's uptake is undoubtedly the most critical part of your eGovernment program as it determines its true success.
Digital identity to boost economic growth
The digital revolution is impacting all sectors of society.
The most visible change is the growing multi-channel access to online services, whether via the internet or mobile apps.
As our lives shift towards the digital space, most countries find it essential to maintain continuity in the way society is organized, improve economic mechanisms, and develop services to citizens.
- For citizens, managing health, organizing children's education, taking out a loan (or investing savings), signing a rental contract, or exercising civil rights are significant acts of responsibility that can move to the digital space.
- For companies, their role as economic stakeholders, together with their legal liability for their business, means they need to make sure their new digitally acquired agility remains secure. They can improve customer service while safeguarding contractual commitments.
- For public administrations, they combine two challenges: offer greater flexibility in public services thanks to the all-digital transition and the need to better serve and protect their citizens.
Let us explain.
Serve and protect
Here, the task is on government services to be reliable and protect public interests, people, and property.
According to our most advanced customers in the public sector (from The Identity Conference 2018 in Paris and the 2019 edition in Prague), "improving the protection of digital identity is as important as it is to ensure everyone has one."
This view, shared by an increasing number of countries, has the advantage of promoting the conditions for digital development centered on people and their changing usage habits.
This strategy rests on two pillars:
- trust services and, above all,
- digital identity.
60+ countries have leaped to digital identity and are engaged in a national eID scheme*.
The move to a national ID scheme
These nations seek to boost efficiency, economic development, and inclusion with the ultimate aim of better serving their citizens in a reliable, secure, and transparent way.
- They are looking for digital dividends, the benefits of using these secure digitization technologies: growth, jobs, and services.
- They deploy national identity trust systems* to rationalize services and processes in social services, taxes, local voting, and administration and promote private services by stimulating the digital economy, all while reducing costs.
* A national identity scheme or digital identity system sets out the sovereign state's roles concerning digital identity. It also establishes the underlying principles and workings of the digital identity ecosystem.
But can these benefits be measured, and how?
Let's dig a little deeper with a few examples.
How to measure the ROI of ID technology?
The bad news?
The error is thinking that a digital ID scheme can be profitable in the short term from a budgetary perspective (ROI) when the whole undertaking is about modernization and equipping the state with the necessary infrastructure for the future.
It can sometimes be a source of disappointment and the reason for the failure of such projects.
The good news?
Fortunately, there are a sufficient number of exceptions to this rule, especially in cases where simplification has brought with it considerable savings.
1/3 fewer queues in hospitals in Estonia
One of the most advanced countries in Europe, Estonia, has since 1992 banked on the information society to ensure growth and competitive development.
This laboratory of "the digital society" has become the global benchmark for national digital identity programs and related e-government programs.
It reasonably foreshadows what a country can expect on a scale of 5 to 7 years.
The country essentially communicates on its positive results in this area and an exciting approach to be followed.
A striking figure summarizes, in particular, the impact of the use of electronic signatures in the country.
Digital signature saves 2% of GDP per year.
Former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves explained in 2016 how technology affects society and its effectiveness:
Electronic signatures in the country save the equivalent of one working week for all of the working population.
Yes, you read that right.
(Source e-Estonia, April 2016)
More globally, the World Development Report issued by the World Bank in May 2016 provides extensive information on digital dividends and answers two main questions:
- Why should authorities focus on promoting digital technologies, and
- How to achieve digital dividends.
Overall benefits of digital ID
According to an April 2019 report from global management consulting firm McKinsey Company, countries implementing digital ID could create economic value equivalent to 3 to 6% of GDP by 2030.
The company makes a difference between:
- basic digital ID (for identification and authentication)
- and digital ID with advanced applications such as eGovernment or other online apps.
Over time, the distinction between basic and advanced digital ID use cases may vanish as broader digital ecosystems can be progressively built on top of a primary digital ID.
A link with financial inclusion
McKinsey and other key international voices (The World Bank, The World Economic Forum, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) say that Digital ID and digital finance (enabling financial inclusion) are intimately linked.
Beyond that, countries that succeed with their National eID launch do two things very well:
- First, they implement a service approach to win citizen's acceptance
- Second, they explain, express, and demonstrate a strong political will to change
Here are examples from our best case studies:
Digital Government and digital ID best practices
By reviewing the most successful national electronic identity schemes and their related eGovernment programs, it is possible to identify the best practices that together make up an 'ideal' launch strategy:
For the individual/citizen: a service approach
To mobilize users, the government needs to give a clear and confident lead on the benefits derived from the implementation of e-ID.
The uptake of new use cases is, first and foremost, dependent on the value of the application.
Top digital identity applications
The leading eGov applications are:
1. Social and healthcare: family, employment, health, retirement, health insurance via local offices or unions, protection, social security provisions, etc.
2. Finances: tax, online banking in many countries
3. Housing: construction permits, certificates, authorizations, change of address.
4. Education and children's activities.
The second raft of applications includes:
5. Leisure and other public services; transport accounts for many of these.
6. Citizenship and involvement in political life: at city, commune, regional and national level.
The service must come to the user and not vice versa. It should be personalized.
When people log in, they are recognized, and their personal history of dealings with the government is instantly recalled.
The countries that have approached projects from this perspective are now enjoying the highest rates of success.
The best part?
Apply marketing techniques step by step.
A marketing approach to win citizen's acceptance
Positioning a national eID scheme
Positioning must be considered carefully.
Another success story is the uptake of the eID system in Austria. Identity and traceability are very sensitive issues in the country.
The government had to show that this national identity card was created by citizens, for citizens.
The (Austrian) Chancellery declared it would guarantee citizens were protected and that it would carry out the general public's wishes.
This is the approach adopted in Portugal and Germany as well.
The "citizen card" has made it possible to better express that citizens are at the heart of the entire e-Government 2.0 program.
Malaysian biometric Mykad, introduced in 2001, was presented that way and proof of Malaysia's modernity. The convenient government multi-purpose smart ID card is proof of citizenship but also serves as:
- a driving license,
- an ATM card,
- an electronic purse,
- and an e-signature tool.
For example, Touch ‘n Go, the electronic purse app, uses contactless technology. Payment is quick and easy for highway toll plazas, public transport such as light rail transit (LRT), RapidKL, car parks, and theme parks.
Segmentation in services
Segmenting services can improve inclusion (e.g., Kids-ID in Belgium, senior service cards in some French towns, educational electronic tokens in some German municipalities).
Profiling studies in Belgium (the University of Ghent and Fedict 2008/2010) also highlight specific, homogeneous user groups :
- single-parent families,
- senior citizens,
- students, etc
for whom customized solutions could be created.
These populations represent excellent opportunities to develop fine-tuned eGov services that are more inclusive and secure.
Promotion and communication
Services should be promoted via organized communication, in just the same way that modern private sector service providers manage their customer relations.
Unfortunately, communication is usually neglected in e-Government policies.
However, it should be considered a priority.
Digital identity education
Education should be organized and facilitated.
For example, in Estonia, e-Government is currently included in the civic education of young people.
Of course, the government is also being modernized for its own sake and for the efficiency of the services it provides.
Still, the effort to convince citizens and develop loyalty will continue for at least another five to ten years.
The digital revolution is taking time to reach every one of us.
That's not all.
For example, the Belgian Federal Government has provided a considerable number of new e-services, allowing the e-ID card to be used to carry out various transactions.
It improved its communication in 2009 via a website and a large number of local advertising campaigns.
The aim was to reach out to citizens (with the "My eID" bus, for example) and teach them to use the services, rather than waiting for them to discover them by accident.
The launch of a private sector e-service without appropriate media communications would be unthinkable.
Source: police on web
"Police on web" is one of 800 applications that use online identification in Belgium. Bike theft? Graffiti? Going on holiday? Report it all directly on the internet! Since 100% of the Belgian population have eID cards, all citizens can report thefts over the internet. This application is part of the measures to streamline administrative procedures.
We consider communications based on technicalities to be counterproductive. That may sound intuitive. But we saw a lot of countries communicate on these aspects that they THINK will do well.
Technology and innovation will not motivate users.
The State's back office must be hidden from view.
When we order a car, the manufacturer does not tell us about the difficulty involved in transferring parts from one production center to another.
This is standard practice, and the same approach should apply to government bodies and digital governance.
Complexity should be masked.
The governance organization for the identification system, its principal identities, secondary identities, authentication servers, the control and validation system, and associated expertise should stay in backstage where it belongs.
Price elasticity affects public services, mainly if online access is not mandatory, and substitutions are possible (the price of the card, subscription, after-sales, development kits).
Furthermore, the child protection service linked to the Belgian Kids-ID card, which was originally intended to be a paying service, was ultimately provided free of charge in 2010.
In India, the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) is in charge of the Aadhaar program (digital biometric identification for all residents in the country).
It initially kept all authentication services free for all to lower the barrier to entry.
It has only begun charging relying parties in 2019.
Since 2019, private organizations are charged US$0.007 for Aadhaar authentication (for a yes/ no challenge) and US$0.3 for e-KYC transactions.
Digital government and ID strategies
A strong political will is essential.
Austria's and Estonia's digital government approaches are particularly interesting in this regard.
As in Estonia, Austrian public authorities first imposed on themselves the rules they wanted to apply to society as a whole.
Initial legal proceedings, the law-drafting process, and then all governmental procedures were brought in line with a paperless government program.
Austria's approach has been very similar to that of Estonia.
Austria also set itself the challenge of creating a modern communications framework for companies and a very favorable competitive environment to attract businesses and promote socio-economic growth.
In 2003, Hong Kong followed the example set by Finland, Brunei, Malaysia, and Macao, and started its own national identity card program.
The success of Hong Kong's new identity card is due in part to a strong and constant political will, and solid technical and legal infrastructures.
Furthermore, the document is visibly more modern and secure than its predecessor, boosting national pride.There has also been a clear perception since the launch that the card would protect the rights of its citizens and their uniqueness.
The installation of self-service terminals and integration in libraries, online betting, and more "classic" examples of Hong Kong e-Government, such as e-tax, have also encouraged adoption.
South Africa is another example of supporting transformation leveraging strong national symbols and values.
Digital ID tech effects to serve South Africa's political goals
The country is a young multi-ethnic democracy.
The authorities understood that a new identity scheme could also be an opportunity to strengthen the nation's development goals as a new symbol of unity and pride for all citizens.
Launched in mid-2013 and replacing the history-laden green book, the new biometric smart ID card was indeed presented as part of the national effort to reinstall the:
- general citizenship,
- the dignity of the people.
The first smart ID cards were issued to the 'Mandela Generation' - and former president Mandela himself - giving priority to those veterans whom the country wished to honor.
The video reflects the will of the authorities to make the launch a historical moment.
India's "foundation" (Aadhaar) to transform the country
So what's the story here?
India's digital ID number, named Aadhaar, has become a symbol of digital transformation and empowerment.
The Indian authorities have always shown strong support to the project.
Aahdaar started in 2009, and today over 1,29B residents have been registered as of June 2021.
Each resident is issued with their own, unique 12-digit Aadhaar number.
This unique digital identity number can use to "authenticate."
The primary goals were to aid the efficient management of public subsidies and unemployment benefit schemes.
Adhaar offers vast potential to extend social inclusion while simultaneously strengthening the country's defenses against modern threats such as corruption, cyber-crime, and identity theft.
Adapting the legal and regulatory framework
The legal and regulatory framework beyond the strict authorization needed to proceed via digital channels should be addressed from a global perspective, encapsulating the complete e-Government program.
The aim is to produce a legal basis for all of the rules establishing the "framework of trust". It is operative once it ensures the continuity of rights in all circumstances and all communication channels with the same legal security, specifying in particular:
- the validity of written documents, contracts, and digital exchanges
- digital identification and electrical signature in compliance with international standards
- rules governing citizens' electronic relationship for public services and e-commerce
- the definition of Private Data for each citizen and the rules to ensure its protection
- the rules governing digital management of the civil register, national identification number, including, for those countries that have opted for it, the rules of use for associated biometric databases
In Algeria, the 2010 law on the implementation of the unique National Identification Number (numéro d'identification nationale) and the February 2015 law on legally binding electronic signature and certification marked two major milestones in the advancement of a national eID framework for eCommerce and eGovernment.
The national biometric eID card was officially launched in early 2016.
In the Belgian e-Government program, access to the "Mondossier", or "Myfile" application is a right offered to Belgian citizens when they are issued their e-ID Card.
In their "Myfile" file, for six months, a Belgian citizen can consult all transactions performed by State administrative employees who have accessed files using his/her civil register data notarized in the National Population Register - except exchanges relating to State security (Justice and National Safety).
The application comprises an online form enabling the citizen to request an official explanation from the government body that accessed his/her Private Data.
The following information appears on the screen:
- date and time of consultation;
- the name of the person who consulted this data,
- if the consultation was performed via identification with an electronic card;
- the code of the organization that performed the consultation, as attributed by the National Institute of Statistics or by the National Register,
- and lastly, the name of the organization that performed the consultation.
Internet access for all (including offers for equipment grants) is another significant factor in e-inclusion.
It should be noted that Estonia has included the right to free Internet access in its Constitution.
Just think about it.
Do you know when by whom and why your personal data have been read in your country?
New organizations to harness the digital age
Often this is done under the auspices of the Prime Minister (or sometimes the Finance Minister), who strategically manages the State's modernization procedure.
Countries that have set up this level of coordination have shown greater agility in moving forward: e.g. the Belgian Fedict and Portuguese AMA, but also the Emirati EIDA (Emirates Identity Authority) or the French organizations of direction interministérielle de la transformation publique (DITP) and direction interministérielle du numérique et du système d’information et de communication de l’Etat (DINSIC) created in November 2017.
Kuwait's PACI, with its Civil ID initiative, is another example of cross coordination.
A technical or operational inter-ministerial committee for the "Modernization of Public Services" offers clear benefits.
An inter-ministerial technical platform will provide an important link between the various ministries, offering assistance to the different public services concerned.
It will cover, in particular, the IT operation for the creation, distribution, and inspection of the validity of secured documents (also see below, "Basic architecture of an e-Government system").
This platform is very often closely linked to the civil register, which constitutes the highest-level reference in terms of "root" identification.
- Belgium's inter-ministerial platform,
- the Estonian X-Road,
- or the French RIE (State inter-ministerial network).
The regional organization has played a key role in many countries.
In states that sought to establish a strong association between regional and local authorities and the national e-Government procedure, a group of regional representatives has been created. All the levels supporting the e-Government deployment are represented.
Some countries, such as Belgium and Austria, have even established their own approach to marketing and targeting their services, based on this representative group.
Because the engagement of the regional level to shape the digital society to come is necessary to guarantee success at a local level, and secure grassroots support, it is clearly advantageous to associate them with the foundations of the program in community life.
- Using as many local and community-based applications as possible to promote almost daily use of trusted e-Services will also boost uptake.
- Cooperation between state and local authorities provides a clear, positive view of local authorities' contribution to the national effort to promote a framework of trust.
Digital Identity governance: adapting the processes
Unnecessary bureaucracy should be eliminated.
Undertaking the necessary reengineering work, ensuring the interoperability of processes, and migrating from a paper-based to an electronic culture may represent something of a revolution, but it is a necessary transition. In Estonia, the e-tax process is now totally paperless.
Designing the eGov services, creating more citizen-centric applications, rethinking the user experience (UX) are also triggering challenging questions:
do we need different data to be collected, different styles of prototyping, other design principles, and ways of structuring products or apps?
Associating virtual and physical relationships – the path to e-inclusion
It is necessary to prove to the citizen that virtual interaction brings real benefits and comforts.
Digital technologies can be transformational, but for that to happen, analog complements are necessary, as expressed in the world bank report 2016.
Some countries have pursued this multi-channel strategy to its very limits by associating e-Government with a very dynamic local policy through:
Citizen Boutiques (Portugal), Public Service Houses (France, Spain), e-Government hypermarkets (Greece), and Local Service Offices (Finland).
Thus, one can prove the physical reality of a single contact point to citizens. Indeed, a relationship based on learning and trust gets off on a better footing with face-to-face contact.
Government self-service kiosks can also serve as a relay.
Installed in administration buildings, malls, they provide something visible and tangible to encourage use and uptake.
An assistant can also attend these kiosks.
It is then all the simpler for citizens and residents to transpose into e-Services the reality they are familiar with - the points of reference are thus acquired, and the necessary learning has taken place.
It takes at least five years for a real cultural adaptation. Face-to-face contact and assistance are fully justified for local services and are significant contributing factors to success.
Partnership matters (with Banks and Telcos)
Bringing together banks (or telecom operators in certain countries) as partners in public sector payment applications, and including them in the 'Circle of Trust' that promotes the use of eID, authentication, and eSignatures will accelerate the implementation process. (E.g. Sweden, Finland, Norway, Estonia, Turkey).
Due to the size of such projects, financing can be a challenge too.
New Public-Private Partnership models can bring a solution and must be investigated.
Digital identity and Thales
To date, Thales is contributing to over 40 electronic identity document initiatives, 30 electronic travel document programs, 20 citizen and voter registration programs, numerous driver's licenses, health, and social schemes worldwide.
To promote the emergence of a more sustainable society by making it more secure, Thales has built a structured approach and mode of contribution to government programs, sharing international experience, industrial know-how, and its position as a partner to public authorities in numerous countries.
Its approach addresses three main areas:
- Securing the identity of citizens
- Protecting their privacy, personal data, and digital rights
- Promoting an optimal framework of trust for digital exchanges to create the conditions for reliable deployment of online services.
In the same spirit, Thales collaborates with its customers to analyze and promote best practices across the planet.
- Mc Kinsey - 31 August 2020: How government can deliver the promise of digital ID
- GSMA and SIA - 4 July 2016: Digital Identity: Towards shared principles for public and private sector cooperation
- Giving voice to digital identities worldwide (February 2021) - The Secure Identity Alliance
- The ID2020 Alliance web site