Identity Now Key to Statecraft Say Experts

One of the chief concerns of those in the identity ecosystem is the formulation of policy befitting for the emerging digital age. With the recent completion of PSD2 and successive eIDAS pilots in Europe, engagement from policymakers and regulators is steadily increasing; now, many have placed the issue at the top of their agenda.

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress seminar ‘How are Identity Regulations Shaping the Digital World? In-Depth Overview of PSD2, eIDAS and New Upcoming Identity Initiatives’, Andrea Servida, Head of the Unit of eGovernment and Trust for the European Commission endorsed both regulations as key milestones in the journey towards digital governance, “This is about trade, this is about business to business, this is about big economic and growth opportunities.”

This is not isolated to Europe either. In the U.S., NIST (The National Institute for Standards and Technology), is progressively relied upon to lend its expertise in identity to regulatory bodies and provide guidance for the nation’s federal government. Speaking at the same event, NIST’s Programme Manager Kat Megas spoke of the organisation’s key role in facilitating a universal, interoperable identity solution; one of their most notable successes being the creation of the Mobile Authentication Taskforce composed of USA’s biggest network operators.

Ibrahim Rohman of the United Nations University suggested we had arrived at a similar tipping point for nations containing disproportionately high number of people without identity. Why? Because increasing penetration of mobile technology is enabling many millions of people to create an identity required to access both private and public sector services. As pointed out by Rohman, policymakers are increasingly realising that “digital identity is one of the most important factors in creating digital commerce” and also that “higher quality of governance is associated with eGovernment.”

One of the visible manifestations of digital identity on statecraft and society is in Singapore, which has benefited from the rapid, nationwide implementation typically associated with small states. Jacqueline Poh, Chief Executive of the Government Technology Agency of Singapore spoke at length of the various ways in which Singaporean society was being transformed by digital identity and the apparent relationship it has with commerce and overall wellbeing. It’s perhaps unsurprising therefore that digital identity and its ability to bring both confidence and security is at the heart of the Smart Nation Singapore initiative. Singapore, which is due rollout Mobile Connect this year, aims to adopt multiple federated authentication methods to mitigate against the disruption or failure of any particular identity solution.

Across the globe, Mobile Connect is shaping up to be an excellent tool for regional and national governments in their quest to introduce identity schemes. For example, the mobile-based service is enabling the Catalonian government to fulfil its mission to provide digital identity for its citizens. “Why did we start looking at Mobile Connect?” opined Miquel Estapé, Deputy CEO of Strategy & Innovation for Open Government of Catalonia, “we know very well that citizens do very few interactions with government, so we are looking to the private sector”. Jørgen Binningsbø, Senior Adviser for Public Management and eGovernment, Difi (Norway) agreed, “we shouldn’t intervene if there is a well-functioning market that already exists.”

The private sector’s role in assisting national governments was is also apparent in France. Serge Llorente of Orange described how the operator had been working with the French Government for over 2 years to develop a digital identity service for its citizens. This, he claimed, would ultimately be key to accessing new public services and would be available for use in the near future.

Operators, with their rich experience of security and multiple markets, seem to have grasped the identity challenge and are confidently addressing it with secure mobile networks. This in turn has enabled them to develop their own business well beyond simply supplying connectivity. This is appears advantageous to all involved; put by Llorente in the closing moments of the session, “there has never been a stronger push towards digitisation – digital is saving money.”