Date
13 December 2017
Britain launched a system called Verify in May 2016, so that citizens can choose from several methods to prove their identities. Photo: UK Government
Britain launched a system called Verify in May 2016, so that citizens can choose from several methods to prove their identities. Photo: UK Government

Learning from overseas experience in electronic identity

Singapore has positioned itself as a smart nation and is adopting more advanced digital identity technology. Its new national digital identity (NDI) is a mobile application that uses encryption to verify identity online, it can be used to sign documents and carry out various online transactions.

The goal of the project is to use the mobile application for access to public and private services, such as medical and banking services, removing the hassle of remembering different usernames and passwords in different organizations.

It is currently undergoing a six-month trial and is expected to be implemented within three years to replace SingPass which was launched in 2003.

Compared with SingPass, the mobile digital identity uses public key infrastructure (PKI) for encryption. It is more convenient and secure than the current one-off password via SMS.

The new system will also include biometric elements for data protection and support application programming interface (API) to facilitate participation by private companies.

Britain launched a system called Verify in May 2016, so that citizens can choose from several methods to prove their identities to public and private entities such as post offices or banks.

Once his identity is verified, a citizen can use at least 15 government services at gov.uk, related to personal tax account, pension, and vehicle licensing.

The Japanese e-identity My Number was launched in early 2016 and the public response to this 12-digit smart ID card was lukewarm. Only one-third of the population (10 million applications) applied for the new ID card at the initial stage.

Apart from system glitches at the beginning, the scope of application was quite limited (disaster relief, social welfare, taxation; and later extended to library card, shopping point card, etc.); there was also privacy concern.

Australia’s e-identity Govpass which is undergoing testing, has been under extensive consultation lasting 12 months, covering privacy and security issues. The consultation, known as Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF), ended in late October 2017.

Its goal is to seek national consensus and give assurance, which is the spirit of smart city 3.0, on their work in upcoming digital identity for building a national standard.

Hong Kong should learn from overseas experience to enable smooth introduction of electronic identity (eID).

In the meantime, the banking sector has been discussing how to improve the process of KYC (know your customer) in recent years. At present, a bank needs to verify a customer’s identity, background, source of funds and usage of account in every new account opening.

If it is an enterprise, the customer needs to provide information regarding the beneficial holders, equity structure, etc. It is time-consuming and inconvenient. If the future eID can be implemented together with the KYC platforms of all financial organizations, such integrated platform can facilitate users.

It can also be opened to outsiders, paving the way for the Bay Area development and further strengthening Hong Kong’s status as a world financial center.

– Contact us at [email protected]

RT/RA

The writer is an Honorary Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Hong Kong. She is also one of the locally-bred IT entrepreneurs of Hong Kong.

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