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How Mobile ID Facilitates e-Government
January 26, 2021 Blog


Authored by: Kenny Ching, Head of Business Development, Asia Pacific at HID Global

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) recently concluded a public consultation for a National Digital Identity (NDID) framework. In its report, MCMC revealed that an overwhelming 94% of respondents were interested to use NDID when transacting with public and private sectors. And notably, the top three use cases ranked by citizens/consumers were all related to e-Government: electronic healthcare records, government assistance authentication and government online services.

Malaysia is not alone in her digital ID journey. At the forefront are countries such as Estonia, India and Australia, all who have rolled out similar schemes providing citizens a trusted identity for use in the digital world. Last year, Argentina went a step further and launched the world’s first national ID on a mobile phone. Citizens can download the Mi Argentina app to receive a mobile ID that can be used in the same legally binding way as the physical credential. Essentially, this means citizens no longer need to carry around their ID cards.

For many countries though, the path to implementation of mobile ID still lags what the market expected, with legislation particularly slow to respond to the pace of technology. There have been many pilots around the world, mainly for mobile driving licenses, but few of them have progressed to national scale deployments. With the pandemic discouraging physical contact in favor of digital interactions, adoption and use of mobile ID now seems more inevitable than ever.

In this article, we take a step back to answer the more fundamental questions: Why is Mobile ID important? More specifically, why is it important in enabling the next generation of e-Government?


Citizens Are Ready

By 2025, it is estimated that 70% of the global population will own a smartphone. That equates to 5.8 billion individual users. In Malaysia, smartphone penetration was 78.0% in 2018, already one of the highest in the world. For most of these users, the primary purpose of their phone is not to make calls; it is to be connected. They want to reach out via the internet to friends, family, information, services, entertainment, businesses, etc. So why not the government? Each citizen must interact with his or her government to some degree. It makes sense that they would want to do so quickly and efficiently through their smartphones, in the same way now with the commercial entities. Provided that the experience is secure, private, and easy to use, users are ready for mobile ID.


The Challenge for Governments

While it is easy to see why mobile IDs for e-Government makes sense from a citizen’s point of view, what about governments? Authorities are under pressure to protect citizens from online fraud, protect minors, communicate better with the population, be more transparent in dealing with citizens and at the same time, drive economic growth and reduce costs. Most have recognized that the key to achieving these goals is the digitization of their societies and modernization of public services. In some cases, this journey began many years ago with the introduction of e-ID programs where access was enabled with smart cards or tokens. However, public adoption of these programs has generally been low, even in the most heralded of projects, as citizens had to make effort to obtain a card or token. This was compounded by the high cost of reader infrastructures and inconvenience of needing a physical credential to initiate a transaction.


Mobile IDs Meeting the Challenge

The emergence of mobile IDs, built upon a proven technological platform such as HID Global’s goIDTM, has delivered a solution to many of the problems faced by governments in the digitization of their state and creating a secure, trusted infrastructure.

A mobile ID can simplify the acquisition of the trusted identity credential. New remote onboarding technologies, provided they are anchored by robustly enrolled existing identity credentials, can deliver secure mobile identities to citizens without them leaving their homes. Modern delivery and encryption techniques protect this process to a level equivalent to the issuance of a physical credential.

With the credential secured on a mobile device, there are multiple ways to share and consume this mobile ID. It can be called directly by other applications or shared on the internet via the mobile network or Wi-Fi. It can also be presented using Near-Field Communication (NFC) by touch or proximity, or even delivered over distances up to 30 meters by Bluetooth (BLE). This is not only convenient, but it also extends the reader infrastructure since many of these technologies are already used by existing readers. If not, readers can be enabled easily by downloading a verifier application, delivered over the air like the mobile ID. This means the infrastructure can be developed cheaply and efficiently, often using existing devices.

With robust security mechanisms in place, possibly supported by biometrics, a mobile ID can help to solve the problem of age verification for both online and in-person applications. Similarly, mobile ID credentials could add additional access security to government websites and services. This could remove the need for passwords, which are easily compromised, or it may be introduced as an additional factor to authenticate users. Ultimately, the use of a mobile ID in this manner could be rolled out to the commercial sector, giving “government level” security to websites where financial and other critical transactions take place.

By having a mobile ID in the hands of each citizen, governments could also reach them better, in the form of push messages informing citizens of relevant changes to legislation, upcoming deadlines such as tax payments or even emergency notifications.


A Big Step Towards e-Government

We can see that the implementation of a mobile ID for citizens, if securely enrolled and provisioned, could largely impact the successful achievement of the e-Government and modernization goals of many governments. Not only does it provide a pathway for better engagement with their citizens, but it also sets up a longer-term roadmap to create a secure identity infrastructure which encompasses many aspects of commerce.

Meanwhile, citizens also benefit from a convenient way of getting their mobile ID, an ease of access to government services on their mobile phones and having peace of mind that their security is protected online.

With such a multifaceted ecosystem, it is important for governments to not only consider the right solution fit from a functionality perspective, but also to look for a credible partner with the necessary real-world experience of delivering complex identity programs and driving mobile ID adoption.

In a nutshell, mobile IDs offer an attractive proposition to governments wanting to accelerate their e-Government plans by providing convenient, secure, and privacy-oriented access to services.