Governments will need a way to verify who has had the virus or has received a vaccine
Some experts are calling for the use of digital identity systems to help countries wind down lockdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. People who have recovered from the virus or have had a vaccine could be issued with a digital certificate or another credential linked to a digital ID solution. “Eventually we will have some digital certificates to show who has recovered or been tested recently, or when we have a vaccine, who has received it,” Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, said during a question and answer session hosted by Reddit, according to a report by TechCrunch.
Other experts are thinking along similar lines, according to an article by Reuters. “We can biometrically identify the individual and tie them to the test results, as well as to a high security document,” noted Larry Dohrs, South East Asia head at iRespond, a Seattle-based non-profit, which provides biometric IDs for refugees and stateless people. “The person then has ‘non-refutable’ proof that they have immunity due to antibodies in their system…It would be a very valuable credential,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The same article quoted Prashant Yadav, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Center for Global Development, as saying: “Biometric digital IDs can be a game changer [as] they can help governments target population segments.”
At the same time, the COVID-19 crisis is fuelling greater interest in the concept of digital currencies backed by central banks and underpinned by digital IDs. As a digital currency could be transferred via text message, it could make it easier for governments to distribute welfare. For example, the Bank of Korea, has announced it will conduct a 22-month pilot test to verify whether a digital currency is stable enough to replace paper money, according to the Korea Times.