Woman using retina scanner on cellphone.

How Digital IDs Will Open Up Municipal Governments

Ryan Pelicos Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Over the past few years, digitization in the public and private services has become popular in many countries. Due to certain limitations, people now must seek most essential services digitally (or non-physically) through digital identities (IDs).  

A digital ID authenticates a person and helps them access a range of services via the web or mobile app that need proof of identity.  

According to McKinsey, digital IDs can generate economic and social advantages for governments, as this method has low costs and a high financial and political inclusion.  

As of August 2020, governments have launched about 165 digital or partially digital ID policies or schemes around the globe. 

If you're wondering what exactly a digital ID is and how it can facilitate the establishment of municipal governments, this article will help you know everything about it. 

What Is a Digital Identity? 

Digital identities are the alternatives for physical identification, such as a physical ID card, passport, health card, or driver's licence. Identity holders can use digital IDs to prove their identity to employers and financial institutions, mainly government agencies.  

Simply put, a digital ID authorizes that a person is who they claim to be on the internet. 

In June 2021, the European Union proposed a framework for Digital IDs acceptance. The program will be available for all EU citizens and businesses and help governments carry out their activities more efficiently across public and private sector departments. 

Digital ID Wallet 

Even before the pandemic, it wasn't easier for citizens to access the rights and services they were entitled to. However, in recent years, COVID-19 health passes have been helping people gain access to services without any physical contact.  

A most recent example is the "digital vaccination cards" developed by the UK government.  

These vaccination cards help the government verify people who have been fully vaccinated. In addition to the UK, other countries like Italy and France have also made vaccination cards mandatory for nightclub entry. 

The "Digital ID Wallet" concept has been adopted by many big names, like Thales, Apple, and Adobe.  

The digital wallet gives people an easy, safe, and convenient way to control their data entirely. Moreover, it also lets people decide with whom they want to share their personal information. 

Thales' Digital ID Wallet is a Mobile ID that provides users with a safe platform that holds and protects all their digital identity credentials on their smartphones. Where the digital ID wallet establishes a trustworthy all-in-one identity gateway for citizens, it also lets governmental authorities create companions for easy to issue, manage, and verify physical identity documents. This reduces ID fraud and boosts efficiency. 

Similarly, in June 2021, Apple also introduced its new digital identity card that connects to the Apple Wallet.  

Users must provide their driver's licence or national ID card to their Apple Wallet to create a digital ID card. This ID is fully-encrypted and stored in Apple's Secure Element to maintain the user's data privacy.  

People can use this new digital ID at airport security checkpoints. Additionally, they can also store their digital house keys, hotel keys, and office keys with their digital ID for the Apple Wallet. 

The entry of Apple into the digital space can finally convince the governments to establish standards and convenience for digital IDs.  

How Can Digital IDs Facilitate Municipal Governments? 

Digital IDs can simplify communications between citizens, governments, and businesses. A smooth interaction system makes way for an effective municipal government that works for the betterment of its region or state.  

Citizens and Government 

Digital IDs benefit users with convenience and easy access to public services, including healthcare, certifications, welfare payments, and different licences.  

Moreover, it also saves travelling costs and reduces the waiting duration that used to frustrate the citizens before. Now, they can easily authenticate themselves through the internet.  

On the other hand, this technological revolution can help open up municipal governments with enhanced administrative capabilities. Governmental officials can boost their efficiency due to the reduced paperwork, fast processing, and minimal risks of identity fraud offered by digital IDs.  

Citizens can also vote through their digital IDs without going physically to the voting booths. 

Businesses and Government 

Digital IDs not only benefit the public sector but also smoothens interaction between the private sector and governments. These IDs can help incorporate registrations, tax filing, permit issuance, and authorizations.  

Online relations between both entities support compliance regulations and offer safe ways to perform background checks and verifications. Moreover, digital IDs also reduce costs and create a trustworthy environment.  

Governments must retain control over the digital ID framework and include the businesses directly in it rather than outsourcing it to third parties. 

How Is Digital ID Helping Governments Worldwide? 

Many countries are finding their way toward digital authentication, including the USA, Australia, Canada, and Bangladesh.  

One example of digital ID wallets is Florida's mobile driving licence - Florida Smart-ID. The app will allow motorists to scan the QR/barcode from their smart devices and verify themselves.  

The same is the case in Queensland in Australia, where the government is all set to open a digital ID system for the private sector with legislative consultations.  

This Digital Identity Legislation will ensure the privacy of many activities, including limiting access to citizens' biometric information. The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has been working with myGovID (developed by the Australian Taxation Office) to introduce a digital identity system in Australia.  

myGovID becomes a unique digital identity for every citizen that they can use to access specific online services, like myGov - the government's online portal. The myGov account then allows them to use all government services online in one place. 

The government of Pennsylvania also came up with a REAL ID-compliant system, going to be enforced in the state from May 3, 2023. The citizens will need a digital driver's licence, ID card, passport, or military ID to board a domestic and commercial flight or enter a federal building. 

In 2019, the ID2020 Alliance and Government of Bangladesh launched a program to establish a digital identity with vaccines.  

Similarly, the Johnstown Police Department officers also started to accept Colorado Digital ID within the myColorado mobile app to authorize every citizen's identity, age, and address for traffic stops by March 2021.  

The San Jose, CA government now accepts digital signatures for various forms related to permits, plan review, and inspections. The official government website directs citizens to use Adobe Reader DC (free), Adobe Acrobat Pro, or DocuSign to fill out and sign their forms. 

How to Establish a Digital ID? 

In Ontario, Canada, the government also launched a Digital Identity Program to facilitate the digital authentication of citizens and provide them with accessible online services. 

To establish a digital ID through Ontario's digital identity program, citizens can follow the below steps: 

  1. Download the Ontario digital wallet app on a smartphone or computer. 
  2. Next, make an account and verify their digital ID online or in person.
  3. Add their ID card and required credentials to the digital wallet. 
  4. Finally, they can use their digital IDs to verify their credentials and access all services. 

No matter where you live, the steps to establish a digital ID more or less remain the same.  

So, now you know that digital IDs are essential to government activities. Thanks to the pandemic, digitization has accelerated all around the globe.  

While it facilitates citizens in availing of governmental services, it also helps municipal governments to interact with the citizens and businesses to build a trustable environment.  

Since technology always has risks, governments must try to retain their control over the digital ID framework to minimize all potential identity frauds.