Opening up ID cards to the private sector
Sharing electronic ID schemes with the private sector can create new opportunities, writes Etienne Veyret of Gemalto
The irrepressible rise of electronic identity cards (eID) over recent years comes as no surprise. Advances in digital technology and mobility means there is an increased expectation that the public sector will adapt their services in response to these changes. Since the turn of the century, governments have rushed to offer digital services to citizens as well as the private sector. Undoubtedly, the shift to eGovernment is fast becoming the norm, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world.
The last decade has seen incredible technological developments being adopted by governments, most notable of which have been biometric and eID cards. According to research by Acuity Market Intelligence, the number of eID cards in circulation is expected to reach 3.5 billion by 2018 — by which time, the number of countries issuing national eIDs will overtake those issuing traditional cards by a ratio of more than 5 to 1. The adoption of biometrics, eID cards, mobile IDs and virtual documents such as electronic driving licences has certainly moved to the mainstage for many governments. This is especially true of the GCC, which has certainly been a pioneer in this trend. While eID cards have become the technology of choice for governments in the region, it is now up to the private sector to adopt these cards for identification, authentication and digital signing.
Biometrics and eID technology have addressed several challenges faced not just by governments, but also citizens and businesses including expensive, time-consuming paper processes, privacy protection, and identity fraud. eID card usages for service providers and the private sector are manifold.
First and foremost, they serve as a secure and trusted identification tool particularly for service providers such as banks or mobile operators that implement Know Your Customer (KYC) processes. As the name suggests, KYC is critical to knowing and understanding customers (and employees) — their identity, location, background, personal information and even what they look like. This is exceptionally important as ID fraud has become increasingly pervasive over the last few years. KYC has now become a strict requirement for many businesses to carry out internal and external checks when onboarding new staff members or customers. Businesses are required to run KYC processes to comply with international regulations on anti-money laundering and terrorist financing.
The KYC process starts with the simple task of checking that new customers are actually who they say they are. This involves the verification of a customer’s ID card to ensure that it is genuine. In this respect, eID cards play a key role as they enable a smooth and secure digital identification process through which service providers can automatically capture data from the eID card about the customer. This data can then be transferred to enterprise systems such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to streamline the customer onboarding process, conduct further diligence, assess risk and review fraudulent individuals. Running such processes is both expensive and time-consuming if businesses and service providers still use traditional (paper) processes to collect new customer data, check backgrounds and manage potential risks.
While saving cost and time is of course important, we cannot ignore the issue of security. National ID cards have undergone a massive transformation over the years. Today’s cards have in-built security protection and are embedded with a microprocessor for better verification as well as online authentication and signature. This implies secure access to online services and easy signing of important eDocuments, making the process convenient and safe as handwritten signatures can otherwise easily be reproduced and forged.
As these cards contain a digital portrait of the card holder and very often fingerprints, they are also used for biometric identification and authentication when required. In the Middle East for example, Qatar’s eID cards grant secure access to the Hukoomi eGovernment portal providing Qatari citizens access to an array of public services and enabling them to sign important forms online. The same solution has also been implemented in the UAE, reassuring citizens of utmost security when accessing public services online. In the same way, eID cards can also be used to secure access to service providers’ online platforms. In Kuwait for example, all businesses across the country use national ID cards to authenticate on their corporate network and sign business transactions such as non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).
Finally, given citizens now use their mobile phones to access most services, governments can create an eID card companion on smart phones. This is particularly useful for citizens always on the go and offers them a choice of two form factors (the card and the mobile ID). With the growth of mobile usage over the years, mobile identity has proved to be an increasingly popular choice among citizens due to its convenience, ergonomics and high levels of security. Some visionary countries have already made the leap towards mobile ID, through the creation of a mechanism using an eID component for accessing online services via mobile devices.
Emerging economies around the world realise the value of putting an eID system in place. Governments that have deployed eID technology have brought to their countries a trusted and powerful method of identification, authentication and digital signing which brings secure convenience to citizens and the private sector alike. The acceptance of eID cards by service providers can only boost digital service usage further, enable smooth administrative and registration processes and create a trusted digital ecosystem for further economic development and growth.
Etienne Veyret is Marketing Director for Government Programs in the Middle East, Gemalto.