The Next Evolution Of Public Digital Identity In 2022: What We Need to Get Right
Published on May 12, 2022
We’re only a few decades past when your “identity” was almost wholly based on your social security number and a fast-talking dealer (probably on the sidewalk in front of the office.)
Then we moved to an era where our driver’s license and credit card became keys to our identity.
There have been some interesting developments since, but they are largely behind the scenes. Until lately.
Fast forward almost 20 years, and billions of people worldwide have digital identities—for better or worse—and their futures are more intertwined with their online personas than ever before.
In this article, we’ll look at how public digital identity can improve the lives of citizens and consumers around the world, along with some challenges.
What is digital identity?
A digital identity is, very simply, a set of attributes or data about you.
It’s probably made up of one or more identifiers that we use today, like an email address, a user name, or a social media profile—that are attached to some kind of attributes which describe your identity.
As we rely more and more on digital services (especially during the pandemic) to perform functions that used to require visiting a physical location, our identity becomes ever more critical.
This is particularly true in fields like government and healthcare, where these services are critical—and where identity theft can have devastating consequences.
Digital ID is key for the continuation of public service delivery
The digital transformation of government is a key priority for many countries, and rightly so.
With the world moving fast towards becoming a more digital society, it makes sense for governments to take advantage of this trend and make sure that their systems are ready for the future.
One area where governments can use technology to improve services is identity management.
Digital IDs are becoming increasingly important as more people move online and need access to government services online.
They also have other uses, such as social media verification, access control and e-commerce.
Digital ID is the most effective way to ensure that people access essential services like healthcare or education – among many others.
Benefits, opportunities and development of digital ID for governments
The development of digital identity technology and its adoption by governments presents an incredible opportunity for not only citizens but also government institutions.
From speeding up bureaucratic processes to providing citizens with greater access to more services via increased convenience, digital identity stands ready to revolutionize how governments relate with their constituents and how citizens interact with their elected officials.
Some of the benefits of (safe and secure) public digital ID systems:
- Improve accessibility and inclusion
- Provide agile public services
- Help fight fraud and identity theft
- Reduces workload and eliminates redundant systems
- Boosting economic growth
There are, however, some major obstacles that stand in our way of making digital identities a reality – security.
Some challenges that governments must overcome
- Security and Privacy
But as convenient as modern digital ID can be, it’s also frighteningly vulnerable.
Hackers know how valuable your information is (which makes them all too eager to steal it), which means there’s always a risk that they’ll find their way into your data.
These days we often hear about blockchain IDs as part of public ID systems.
This system allows us to control our digital selves and securely share them with other parties in ways that didn’t exist before on such a global scale.
That’s why more and more governments are focusing on blockchain since security and privacy are great concerns.
The interoperability of public digital identities is critical for the future.
It’s a prerequisite for any kind of social interaction and economic exchange in the digital world, where it is increasingly easy to pretend to be someone else.
Interoperability means that different applications can talk to each other and share data securely.
This is vital because the more applications there are, the more likely it is that people will need their public identity to interact with public (or private) organizations.
Today’s digital landscape is very different from what it was in 2000.
However, even with its current level of growth and popularity, digital identity doesn’t yet satisfy citizens on every level.
It’s not as seamless or frictionless as people would like it to be—and that means there are huge opportunities for governments to address these pain points and take things to a new level.
I look forward to seeing how digital identity evolves in the coming years and how it impacts businesses, governments and individuals alike.
About the Author
Mohammad J Sear is focused on bringing purpose to digital in government.
He has obtained his leadership training from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, USA and holds an MBA from the University of Leicester, UK.
After a successful 12+ years career in the UK government during the premiership of three Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair, Mohammad moved to the private sector and has now for 20+ years been advising government organizations in the UK, Middle East, Australasia and South Asia on strategic challenges and digital transformation.
He is currently working for Ernst & Young (EY) and leading the Digital Government practice efforts across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and is also a Digital Government and Innovation lecturer at the Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po, France.
As a thought-leader some of the articles he has authored include: “Digital is great but exclusion isn’t – make data work for driving better digital inclusion” published in Harvard Business Review, “Holistic Digital Government” published in the MIT Technology Review, “Want To Make Citizens Happy – Put Experience First” published in Forbes Middle East.
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