National ID Cards in Kuwait: key to digital government

Kuwait’s National Electronic Identity Card scheme shows the potential for eID for public and private sector, writes Etienne Veyret, Gemalto

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National ID Cards in Kuwait: key to digital government Veyret: Kuwait’s national ID scheme is one of the building blocks of digital government services.
By  Etienne Veyret Published  March 27, 2017

There is no doubt that the public and private sectors around the world are increasingly adopting Electronic Identity cards (eIDs) over the last few years due to advances in digital technology and mobility. According to research by Acuity Market Intelligence, eID cards in circulation are expected to reach 3.5 billion citizens worldwide in 2018. The GCC countries have been early adopters of eIDs, with Kuwait being a stand-out example given the implementation of its national eID initiatives from 2008.

The country’s long-term strategy, ‘Kuwait 2035’ aims to complete projects of electronic government which has led to the rapid adoption and implementation of new technologies including the national eID initiative. In a span of just four years, Kuwait jumped 14 places in the United Nations e-Government Development Index (EGDI), providing inspiration and insight to stakeholders looking to recognise the benefits of national eID technologies on a global stage.

Kuwait’s national eID scheme is one of the building blocks of a programme that will shape Kuwait’s destiny. Designed to revolutionise the way in which citizens and residents access a broad array of public and private sector services, it is the product of a wider regional initiative being undertaken by the GCC to ensure a digital and modern approach to identification processes.

But the card is only part of the story. At the heart of Kuwait’s success as a digital nation is also the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) managed by the Public Authority for Civil Information (PACI). This network represents a secure highway for data exchange, allowing people, government and companies to exchange data securely and verify the identity of the other party.

The digital ID card contains a microprocessor that can host a large amount of data. In addition, it securely stores digital certificates, enabling the use of electronic authentication and digital signatures. Each card stores two unique digital certificates — the first contains the holder’s personal details, whilst the second enables legally binding e-signatures. Thus, the card is transformed from a simple physical identification document into a powerful tool that can provide citizens with secure and seamless access to a wide range of e-services.

First and foremost, the national eID cards in compliance with the GCC regulations, are designed to allow citizens of all GCC countries to travel freely between member states. The contact functionality allows cardholders to access eGovernment services and perform transactions in a simple and secure manner. Lastly the contactless technology Gemalto built into the card increases speed, convenience and security of identity verification at border crossings.

The launch of eID cards marked a major milestone in the advancement of the national eID framework for e-commerce and e-government. Throughout Kuwait, the introduction of new digital identity technology has enabled deployment of innovative electronic services. Government, banking, oil and other private sector enterprises now offer electronic services using the eID to authenticate identities and sign documents digitally. Some examples include:

Social security is one of the most important government services, affecting all segments of society. With the new eID, any citizen can access electronic services, using their eID as the primary authentication tool at a new network of self-service kiosks.

Kuwait Oil Company  has deployed the eID to improve communication with its 3,000 employees. Self-service kiosks have been introduced, simplifying the issuance of HR and payroll certificates. Employees can now access the service using their eID to view and print all required documents with complete privacy and security.

Kuwait Credit Bank  has deployed the national eID as the most secure tool to access its online services and apply for governmental loans. The eID card contains the information required to complete the loan application. The card is also the key to authenticate through the bank’s web portal. As a result, the applicant no longer needs to visit the bank in person.

Boubyan Bank  smart phone application makes money transfer easier, anyone can transfer money using their national eID. The beneficiary can withdraw the authorized amount of cash directly from an ATM machine, using the eID assigned for this operation. There is no longer any need to visit the branch and wait in line.

Ministry of Justice enables lawyers using the online service provided by the Ministry, to access the governmental portal using their national eID, they do not need to go to the court any more to file a law suit, using the national ID they can securely access the governmental portal, sign and upload their lawsuits from their offices, this has made the process much more convenient and fast.

In the space of just a few years, the Kuwaiti government has created an infrastructure needed to provide eIDs for everyone. The public and private sector have capitalised on this platform by adopting a variety of innovative and convenient applications and services.

Already facilitating significant improvements in the speed, convenience, efficiency and accessibility of e-services throughout Kuwait, the eID scheme also provides firm foundations for new and exciting developments in the years ahead. Due to these bold initiatives, the country can look forward to a future in which the ambitious goals are realised in Kuwait’s 2035 Vision to become a day-to-day reality for millions of its citizens.

We at Gemalto are proud to have contributed to this project. Kuwait’s best practices are demonstrating the advantages of adopting a national eID card, most notably as the cornerstone for both a digital government platform and the development of smart cities. The Kuwait authorities have also shown how confidence in eGovernment can be built through a strong national identity card. Millions of Kuwaitis are therefore reaping the benefits of digital government, and enjoying new standards of simplicity and convenience when interacting and accessing public bodies and services.

Etienne Veyret is Marketing Director for Government Programs in the Middle East, Gemalto.

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