The second goal is to use the card as a brand new tool for electronic signature and online authentication, fostering electronic transactions and giving citizens peace of mind in the digital age.
Cardholders enter a secret pin code to identify and authenticate themselves, and the card then generates a digital signature for secure declarations and electronic administrative procedures.
This application provides the required cryptographic means for secure access to the e-government services portal.
As the Portuguese constitution forbids a single central database for names, several identifiers can be found on the citizen card at the front and back of the card (Civil ID number, social security number, tax number, healthcare user number).
Numerous public services are now available online, and procedures that would have taken hours (obtaining civil records/birth certificates, Social Security declarations, etc.) now take seconds.
As of 2014, over 45% of cardholders have activated their digital certificates.
The national identity card supports biometric authentication when necessary, as fingerprints are safely stored in the card's microprocessor.
The match-on-card mechanism allows biometric authentication without any central biometric database. This is strictly forbidden in Portugal.
Biometric credentials never leave the smart card, meaning they always remain protected.
The card's processor carries out the check and answers yes or no: does the fingerprint presented correspond to the one stored in the card?
A strong partnership
For INCM (Imprensa Nacional Casa da Moeda SA), the Portuguese National Printing Office, it was another opportunity further to enhance their unique expertise after the electronic passport project.
In 2006, INCM selected Thales as the prime contractor to provide the digital security solution for the national eID card (Sealys eID), including the secure operating system, the personalization system (Coesys Issuance solution), as well as the applications, the middleware and associated helpdesk services with Zetes Burótica, the Portuguese subsidiary of Belgian Zetes Industries.
The Portuguese government selected a secure identification document based on identification, authentication, and signature (IAS) specifications – the first in Europe.
The Cartão do Cidadão (national electronic ID card) includes a qualified certificate (QES - qualify electronic signature) as defined by the eIDAS regulation.
The Chave Móvel Digital (the Portuguese mobile eID solution) also includes a qualified certificate.
Beyond the citizen card
Portugal is a fascinating case in point for State modernization.
When Portugal decided a few years ago to speed up implementing its e-Government plan and drastically cut bureaucracy, it aimed to transform the public sector into a collaborative, inclusive body and place Portugal as one of the leaders in service quality for citizens and companies.
The goals of a more citizen-centric society have rarely been asserted with such strength from the outset, with such a comprehensive understanding of the issues.
Portugal and State Modernization
At the beginning of the last decade, Portugal was still an extremely centralized country, with rifts between local and central authorities difficult to bridge.
The internet had made massive inroads with the country's elite, but few citizens were trying to access the internet or online services.
So the challenge to modernize the state using digital means, bringing citizens and public authorities closer together through digital communication channels, and strengthening social cohesion seemed insurmountable.
It seemed that the country would have to wait for the change to be made by the next generation, more up-to-date on new communication methods.
Bold statements for a new vision
Yet, Portugal made the following bold commitments:
Are administrative bodies too partitioned? Cross-functionality will be a priority.
The general public is very wary of change. The benefits of this change will initially be concrete and visible before being transferred to the digital environment.
Back offices set too many constraints and impair the service quality of public authorities. The new organization will be completely rebuilt based on citizens' needs, pushing the citizen-centric eGovernment vision as far as possible without impairing administrative efficiency.
Simplex and Simplex+ modernization programs
Between 2006 and 2011, more than 1,000 administrative and legislative simplification and e-government measures were successfully implemented in the so-called Simplex program, the name of the state modernization initiative.
The Citizen Card was launched ten years ago, replacing five documents
The Citizen Shop provides a one-stop shop for public administration and private services. In 2017, 533 Citizen Shops offered approximately 200 public services.
Overall they had a very positive impact on the lives of citizens and businesses and reduced administrative costs. The execution rate of the program was always over 80%.
Some of the program's measures were singled out and obtained international awards from the United Nations (2018 report - see page 39) and the European Commission.
Simplex is associated with positive changes and cutting red tape in public services.
SIMPLEX +, the new program, is cross-cutting, covering all the domains where the state is actively present. It has also preserved its common approach to simplification, but it addresses new challenges in a new era.
Simplex+ is also remarkable in many respects.
First, it is more participatory, co-produced, and done with full transparency and accountability.
It's stimulating innovation - to invite innovators to look at central administration. A 'startup simplex' competition was launched in 2017. It's aimed at rewarding innovative ideas for products and services that will simplify the interactions of citizens and businesses with public services.
Finally, the Simplex program takes the drive towards simplification beyond the boundaries of public services by including measures such as the "simpler opening of a bank account" that require collaboration between the public and private sectors.
Between 2016 and 2018, Portugal jumped nine places in the United Nations e-Government Development Index (EGDI).
Lessons from the Portuguese experience
At a time when secure digital identity is considered a key for digital service uptake and digital dividends, it is worth drawing lessons from the Portuguese experience:
Permanence – successful transformation and uptake of the new system are built on unchanging fundamentals, and it all takes time.
Guidance -However, if things are changing, change needs to be explained. Advice will need to be offered, and it will be important to ensure positive feedback to foster people's trust.
Next, providing something highly visible – like citizen spots and citizen cards– is important to encourage uptake before going virtual. This is especially true in areas where digital technology hasn't yet reached enough people.
More on eIDAS (electronic IDentification, Authentication, and trust Services)
Get in touch with us
For more information regarding our services and solutions contact one of our sales representatives. We have agents worldwide that are available to help with your digital security needs. Fill out our contact form and one of our representatives will be in touch to discuss how we can assist you.
Please note we do not sell any products nor offer support directly to end users. If you have questions regarding one of our products provided by e.g. your bank or government, then please contact them for advice first.