The digital identity is a resource that gathers the individual's identifying information. The main difference compared to the traditional model we know is the format. The traditional identification document is printed on paper. The digital identity can be a chip card or an application, for example.
The citizen is able to gather as much information about himself, in one place and in a safe way. The information is not exposed, at the risk of being stolen by a criminal, who will use it to commit fraud, create credit cards in someone else's name, take out loans, etc. In addition to not running the risk of losing your documents, as you do not need to load the printed version every time.
The digital identity can be connected to several services and provides greater security for the verification of the individual. The reason is that the joining of various information facilitates the verification process, as the data can be evaluated and verified in different databases.
The reason is that the joining of various information facilitates the verification process, as the data can be evaluated and verified in different databases.
The digital identity impacts the lives of everyone who needs to relate to it, not just the citizen. Here are some of these benefits:
With the centralization of information, citizens, companies and government organizations are able to relate more fluidly, with an easy and fast exchange of information, in addition to increasing efficiency in all types of processes.
Countries around the world have been discussing the issue of identifying their citizens for many years. The lack of a universal method meant that each nation developed its own system. Of course, in some places the model adopted works better than others, but we have to consider that each country, culture and people have their own particularities and this directly affects the identification processes.
Some countries in Europe have more unified systems, even if they are not digital. This already makes identification much easier, but it is still not the ideal model. In other countries in the world, such as in South America, for example, there are many types of identities, which are not related or connected.
In other words, a lot of information from all - or almost all - citizens is distributed in different types of documents, but they do not intersect, cannot be confronted or would take a long time to make this analysis.
The division of identification systems, such as individual registration information, driving permission and taxpayer data, makes the citizen identification process more complex. Why separate in documents different information that at some point needs to be found?
Increasingly, citizens, companies and governmental organizations have realized that the integration of these data is fundamental to the economic, social and cultural relations of society.
As technology advances more and more, we might not notice that, instead of walking toward true innovation, we’re simply transferring the same old bureaucratic processes from before to the digital realm. Most of Brazil’s several document issuing institutions have developed apps where citizens can access a digital version of the physical document — keyword being “several”. Each document has its own separate app, meaning people need to download each one of them in order to have access to the official digital version of each Brazilian document.
This digitalization, then, simply takes the information previously available on paper and puts it in a mobile device; the digital documents are identical to the physical cards. There are virtually no new features, no benefits besides being able to access your documents on your phone as well as on your wallet.
But this high volume of digital documents highlights another problem Brazil faces when it comes to documentation: the extremely high number of documents Brazilians need and the lack of any standardization or centralization between them.
There are three main documents accepted as identity certifications in Brazil: the CPF (Cadastro de Pessoas Físicas, or “Natural Persons Registration”), the RG (Registro Geral, or “General Registration”), and the CNH (Carteira Nacional de Habilitação, which is Brazil’s driver’s license).
The first one, the CPF, is extremely important because it’s required of Brazilians if they want to actively participate in society — by entering universities, voting, going into public service, etc. For many Brazilians, it might seem like every adult around them has a CPF number; the reality is much different. Among the 210 million of Brazilians, around 50 million people don’t have an active CPF (because they never issued it or because it was blocked for various reasons); most of these people are extremely marginalized, and their lack of documentation is as much a result as a consequence of this.
The CPF is issued by the Brazilian Federal Revenue Department, a tax organization responsible, among other things, for keeping a database of all citizens who are alive and contributing to society. If a citizen has issued a CPF number and obeys all their civic duties, such as paying taxes and voting, then their CPF is supposed to be regular; in case of any non-compliance, it can be blocked and, in case of death, the Revenue Department permanently blocks the number, stopping it from being used by others in the interest of committing identity fraud.
At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. It’s not unusual for people to suddenly discover they are considered dead by the Revenue Department, or to find out their CPF is blocked when they most need access to government support — as has been happening to many during the COVID-19 pandemic when they try to access the auxiliary emergency fund provided by the government. These people fit the requirements and are entitled to the money, but discover they can’t access it due to problems they didn’t know they had.
The CPF number is usually present in the RG card, always there in the CNH document, but it can also come in its own official card — although this card is pretty much meaningless by itself since it doesn’t feature a photo of the individual, which stripes it of identity comparison value. Because of that, most citizens don’t carry or even have a physical CPF document.
Next, we have the RG, also referred to simply as identity card (“carteira de identidade”, in Portuguese). Accepted as identity proof throughout the entire Brazilian territory, the RG is not actually a federal document; there are several issuing institutions in the whole country and each state has its own RG model.
This means a person from São Paulo has a completely different RG document than someone from Amazonas, for example. And every decade or so, each state’s agencies update their models, which leads to different document formats circulating concurrently in the same state as well. All in all, considering every state and the different formats within each state, the total amount of possible valid RG documents circulating in Brazil is absurd.
But that’s not all: besides the models and the whole formatting being different, each state has a completely separate database from the others; there is no connection at all between the identity cards being issued in one and in another. And every decade or so, each state’s agencies update their models, which leads to different document formats circulating concurrently in the same state as well.
What does this mean, exactly? That a person who already has an RG from São Paulo can request another one in Amazonas and use both of them as identity cards as it suits them, with no problem whatsoever. It’s possible for a Brazilian citizen to issue different RG documents in all 26 of the country’s states and have them all be considered equally valid.
And then we also have the CNH — which, being a driver’s license, is obviously only obligatory for those who want to drive. It is issued by the local agencies of a federal institution, Detran, which does have a national database. Therefore, it’s a pretty trustworthy form of ID certification, since the physical card includes all the essential information, a photo of the citizen, and both the RG and CPF numbers as well as the CNH number itself.
Brazilians also need to carry, depending on their circumstances and needs, a document to certify they are students, another to access the federal healthcare system (Sistema Único de Saúde — SUS), another to access their private healthcare services if they have them, another to access government services and benefits, address certifications and, among many others, their passports. And, for some highly specialized professions, also their respective association documents. And these are still not all of them.
Having access to a digital version of each one of these documents certainly seems practical — and is actually practical, to an extent. However, it's still quite a rough experience, not only because you need to go from one app to another, but because it transfers all this lack of centralization and standardization to the mobile realm. Thus, it reinforces the extreme fragility of the Brazilian current identification system.
All of this makes it extremely difficult to accurately verify a Brazilian citizen’s identity. One single person can hold a dozen different RG cards, for example — one in each state —, CPF numbers might be considered irregular for unknown reasons, and people might try to use non-official documentation as proof of identity.
Another problem is the fragility of the document itself, especially in the case of the RG. Since each state has its own format, there’s no standard for where information should appear in, what’s supposed to be the issuing organ, or how the document number should be formatted.
As you can imagine, this is a playfield for fraudsters, since it makes it harder for anti-fraud companies to develop automated solutions capable of identifying all possible fraud scenarios and strategies. The only possible way to completely verify whether a RG document is legit or not is with documentoscopy, which requires highly specific skills and is a very manual, time-consuming demand.
But this fragile, antiquated, and bureaucratic scenario — and also in spite of it — pushes innovation forward among the disruptive companies that are working toward bringing true change to how Brazilians see identity and identify themselves. One of the most promising digital identity solutions is MeuID (“MyID”, in a free translation), developed by Brazilian regtech idwall.
MeuID aims to put each person in control of their data and their identity, thus being able to prove they are themselves in a quick, frictionless, and truly innovative way. With MeuID, idwall wants to allow people to have all the most relevant data centralized in a completely secure, transparent, and trustful space. Besides strengthening identity validation and data privacy, this also opens up the way for people to have quicker, easier access to services, places, and products.
World Identity believes there are matters and features that must not be excluded from any digital identity solution that truly wants to change how we all view identity — we can read it below. To our understanding, MeuID fits into all these requirements.
Be it between people, be it between people and companies — to happen successfully: for users to be willing to share data, for organizations to use that data, so that the bureaucracy can be reduced and everything happen with more fluidity and dynamism. With all this, more complex and interesting relationships for both sides can be created.
At World Identity, we believe that digital identity is driven by what shapes digital interactions: trust, agility, security, and user-centrism. In order for this to effectively become a reality, the development of digital identity solutions has an important role to play.
That’s why we propose a digital identity model that has transparency, trust, and inclusion as its basis. We believe digital identity solutions must always:
And how do digital interactions happen in this new concept of identity? They must be focused on privacy and security, based on intelligence and effectiveness. Such interactions are, then, only possible when there is an understanding that the user must be at the center of them; with a digital identity, individuals can control and choose the interactions they want to have with companies and institutions.
It is not possible to build a digital identity in our proposed model without the explicit understanding, trust, and engagement of the user. Therefore, implementing the concepts of Privacy by Design and Privacy by Default, for example, becomes essential.
Following Privacy by Design, the concern with data security must be present from the very first step in developing the solution. It can’t be seen as an afterthought, as an add-on, as an additional feature; it’s something fundamental without which the solution can’t function. Personal data privacy must not come after the requirements of technology or functionality, but be truly intrinsic to the product.
Meanwhile, under the understanding of Privacy by Default, you must define the settings that best preserve users' privacy as the default. If they choose to share a higher volume of data than what is strictly fundamental, they have the option to change it — all with clarity and transparency, so that people can clearly understand what it is they are modifying and agreeing to.
In addition, digital identity must be simple, intelligent, and secure: simple in the way it allows the user to have easy and dynamic interactions; intelligent in how it uses the least amount of data possible to enable digital interactions; and secure because it preserves, stores, and handles personal data always keeping the user in control of their information.
We are working toward turning this goal into reality. Do you want to also be a part of this worldwide change? Then it is essential to implement the most innovative measures of security and privacy of personal data in the treatment of information. Thus, it is possible to build solid digital relations based on trust, while also ensuring compliance with personal data protection laws.
At World Identity, we believe digital identity solutions affect us all — people and companies alike — and are a fundamental piece of the future we’re journeying to. You are invited and welcome to walk alongside us. Take the first step by clicking the button below and sharing with us your ideas, concerns, challenges, and any other thought about digital identity:
Tell us what you think identification could and should do for you (and for your business)This way!
The biggest identity challenge in Brazil is the fragility of the documents and the lack of standardization between some of them. The RG (Registro Geral, or “General Registration”) document, for example, one of the most commonly used forms of identification, circulates throughout the country in dozens of different models and formats.
This makes identification extremely difficult and fragile. There are so many different ways of how an RG card can look and where its information is supposed to be that developing fully automated solutions to verify if a document is legit or not is impossible; the only assertive, complete strategy to do so is through documentoscopy, a manual and laborious process.
These challenges are still present in digital identity projects in the country. The many different issuing organizations in Brazil have separate apps for each document, meaning citizens can might have as many document apps on their phones as physical documents on their wallets. Doesn’t sound very practical, does it? The lack of interconnection in the official documents’ databases is still a problem in the digital identity environment.
That is why, as is the case in most other countries with successful digital identity cases, the most promising Brazilian solution comes from a private corporation. idwall’s MeuID app allows users to send photos of their documents through the app. Then, through machine learning, biometrics, and other technologies, MeuID checks the veracity of the data and whether the documents really belong to that individual or not.
MeuID exemplifies much of what digital identity can be and what it they achieve in terms of service and access, such as fastened check-in at hotels and airports, easier entry in events, 100% digital enrollment processes, scan-and-go services, and much more.
Read more about Brazil’s identity environment in our article Brazil’s scenario: bureaucracy and tradition in a context primed for change below!
In May 2018, the Afghan government launched e-Tazkira, an electronic identity card that serves as proof of identity, residency, and citizenship. In compliance with international identity laws, e-Tazkira is valid for a period of 5 years and its issuance costs 10 Af at minimum.
The document is made available in the form of a physical card, which contains information such as full name, ID number, signature, and place and date of birth. In order for it to function as an electronic identity card, the document is equipped with a contact chip.
Aiming to reduce bureaucracy and facilitate access to social welfare services, China’s Ministry of Public Security is working on creating digital national identification cards. The traditional form of the document, which is obligatory for all Chinese residents over 16, is a physical card used to access social programs, open bank accounts, request a driver’s license, and many other services and programs.
This physical version of the document has already been upgraded with a more developed, secure card, featuring built-in chips and digital encryption. Concentrating personal data such as full name, date of birth, ethnicity, and home address, the document is also available in a digital version, which has the same validity and acceptance as the physical card.
It’s no wonder China is one of the world leaders when it comes to digital identity — with the highest population density in the world, the country also still relies heavily on physical, paper-based processes and documents. All of this leads to an extreme level of bureaucracy and increases the problems of lack of identification and risk of identity fraud.
In its plan to create a strong, highly innovative digital identity, China partnered up with superapp WeChat, which was already established among Chinese citizens as their prefered way of carrying out digital transactions such as online payments, text messaging, online shopping, and much more. By including users’ personal data into its database, WeChat can help tailor even more personalized experiences and also extend its security and privacy technology to this information, in a way that the government by itself wouldn’t be able to.
Besides regular personal data such as full name, address, and province, China’s digital ID also features ethnicity, religion, work and criminal history, and whether or not the citizen has children, for example.
Such a comprehensive map of who a person is and the way China uses that can lead to intricate ethical matters, especially when it’s tied to access to places and services. By easing and expanding access to those considered “model citizens”, the downside is that other citizens might face limitations — they are not necessarily stopped from doing anything, but can run into more difficulty and bureaucracy.
When it comes to digital data and identity, Estonia is most definitely a pioneering country: over 98% of its population have one single document fully integrated with a government platform that centralizes all the information they need to know about the citizens. People can carry this identity also in the form of a physical card, protected with a built-in chip and encryption.
Estonia turned its citizens identity digital before most countries had even begun to discuss this, which allowed Estonians to completely eliminate the need for citizens to be physically present in government institutions for routine, bureaucratic processes and requests — the only exceptions that still require citizens to be present in person are cases of marriage, divorce, or property transfers. According to Toomas Hendrick, Estonia’s president from 2006 to 2016, the transition from public to digital government services led the country to increase its GDP savings by 2%.
In Ethiopia, the government has digital identity projects with the aim of strengthening their response mechanism for humanitarian incidents. By leaving paper processes behind and fully entering the digital world, Ethiopia believes they can improve the creation and the implementation of humanitarian and development programs.
The country already tested digital registration platforms in food distribution programs, thus creating a comprehensive, up-to-date database of the needs and requirements of Ethiopian households.
The subject of digital identity quickly brings to mind India’s Aadhaar, one of the biggest of such initiatives in the world. Aadhaar was established in 2009 by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), a legal authority created by the government of India that falls under the jurisdiction of the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
The Aadhaar platform records the biometric and demographic data of each individual — anyone who is a resident of India or who has an Indian passport can voluntarily apply for it. Each person participating in the program receives a unique 12-digit identification number, which is connected to their information saved in the database.
It is the largest biometric identification system in the world, considered by many to be also one of the most sophisticated. The random number of the Aadhaar can also be printed on a physical card, functioning as a regular identity.
In February 2012, an online Aadhaar number verification system was launched. It made it possible for banks, telecommunications companies, and government agencies to search for a number and see if the titular individual was a resident of India.
Another major development happened the following year: Aadhaar users could now use the phone number connected to the digital document to carry out transactions of up to 5,000 Indian rupees, migrating to a mobile banking app for higher values.
In 2015, India launched the DigiLocker service, with which citizens registered with Aadhaar could scan and save their documents (not only Aadhaar’s physical card, but also the PAN document and driver's license) in the cloud. The data could then be shared with government agencies and officials as needed, eliminating the need for the documents’ physical versions.
This was an important leap because many citizens have not yet embraced Aadhaar's digital resources. Thus, the continuous investment in new features and possibilities not only favors the most active users of Aadhaar, but also attracts those registered in the database who are still limited to the printed identity card.
For many people around the world, the lack of the most basic forms of documentation means they remain on the outskirts of society, with virtually no access to government support, services, education, and jobs.
In Malawi, the most common forms of identification were, until very recently, passports and driver’s licenses. This strengthened even more the inequality between citizens, since access to a personal vehicle or to international travel is definitely not commonplace.
Since most of the citizens of Malawi didn’t have a passport or a driver’s license, the government carried out a task force to implement a series of identification measures that could allow a higher number of people to do something that, ultimately, really shouldn’t be that hard: prove they are themselves. This project led to 9.2 million citizens being registered in the National Registration and Identification System.
The government’s plan is to integrate the National Registration and Identification System into other already used databases, thus integrating all necessary identification data on each citizen — including health and voting-related information. This comprehensive database can then be used to develop services and programs more aligned with the needs of the community, which can then be offered more assertively, with much less bureaucracy, and for all those that really need them.
Expectations are that more than 12 million citizens of Malawi will have a digital identity document by 2022.
Mexico wants to have a fully implemented digital identity program in place before 2025. The goal is for it to improve equality through financial, education, and workforce inclusion, among other benefits for citizens. The plan is for digital identity to be tightly connected to digital financial services, thus leading to a decrease in the use of cash in favor of online payments and transfers.
Nigeria faces a problem also seen in Brazil: its identity system is highly fragmented. With at least a dozen government agencies issuing different forms of ID, the country wants to have a centralized, unique document available digitally as well as physically for citizens.
One of the most promising initiatives is the National Identification Number (NIN), to which individuals can register by providing demographic information, fingerprint, phot, and signature. The number is then made available in an electronic card containing also full name, date of birth, nationality, and gender.
South Korea counts on digital identification solutions that even allow citizens to board domestic flights without the need to present a physical document — instead, they can simply download a digital identity through the official government app.
The plan is for this possibility to be extended to other highly bureaucratic (and with high chances of fraud), such as banking, credit card emissions, and insurance services.
The government is also resorting to partnerships with private companies in order to expand even more the scope of services and accesses made available through digital identity validation. Another benefit of such partnerships is that these companies can help protect the government’s database, since they have higher technology for that.
The UK is often on the forefront of financial and technological advancements, such as Open Banking and data protection regulations. The region already counts on strong alternatives to the traditional document system as well as on technology requirements capable of bringing true innovation and digitalization to the way citizens prove and carry their identities.
This means that, in order for the United Kingdom to be able to fully explore — and profit on — digital identity, expectations and possibilities are very high.
That happens because digital identity is profitable and beneficial not only in and off itself, but because of the business and service opportunities it opens up. When fully implemented and embraced by the citizens, it can shake up the whole market, government, and connectivity environment.
The country is expected to create and implement advanced digital identification technology so that they can help spread the concept of digital identity not only throughout the UK itself, but throughout the world. In the meantime, citizens can use a government website to verify and prove their identity online in order to access government services without the need of going to a physical agency in person.
The United States are behind many other less developed countries when it comes to digital possibilities such as identity and banking. With no stand-out digital identity initiatives, the US also deals with the problem of lack of integration between each state’s database and identity agencies.
Many of the states have their own, completely separate documentation formats, which makes it harder to map citizens comprehensively across the whole country. Many institutions also believe data privacy and security regulations need to be strengthened before the country can move to digital when it comes to registering and identifying all its citizens.
Although it does not have a digital identity, the country invests in technological resources to identify its citizens. By 2018, there were approximately 280 million. The document issued in Indonesia has biometric data exclusive to the citizen, in addition to the full name, date of birth, occupation, address, marital status and religion.
To register Indonesians, the government collects fingerprints and retinal scans. The documents have a microchip, unique serial number and non-contact technology.
The country has a mandatory identity program for people aged 18 and over. Information has been captured since 2006, using biometrics, but only in 2016 did smart identity cards be introduced in the country.
The Bangladesh National Identity Card (NID) has a chip and gathers data such as name, parents' names, date of birth, identification number, photo and fingerprints. With the card, citizens are able to access the 22 government services, passports, bank and tax identification.
Russia's goal is to launch digital passports by 2023, but to travel abroad, citizens will have to use printed documents. The country has developed a “mobile identifier” for an electronic passport, which is currently in the process of certification.
The objective is that the application solves the problems of certification and encryption of electronic signature keys. By the end of 2021, the country will test the use of the identifier for access to public services, instead of the passport. With the application, the Russians will be able to generate a QR code and use it for data validation.
In Singapore, citizens rely on MyInfo to authenticate their identities and access government services online. Validation is done by the smartphone, using a token. The system gathers data on the income, licenses, property and education of each citizen. In 2019, the country launched the National Digital Identity (NDI) program and in the following year biometrics was implemented in the service. With NDI, banks and private companies can authenticate their customers, using the national digital identification infrastructure, and facial biometrics resources.
A committee made up of public and private sector leaders from Canada created a committee, the DIACC, in 2012, with the aim of developing a digital identity and a secure identification structure for the country. The goal is that, in this way, Canada will be able to unlock more economic opportunities for Canadians and have a robust, secure, scalable and privacy digital identification and authentication ecosystem. Thus, they will be able to reduce costs for governments, consumers and companies, improving service delivery and boosting GDP growth.
The German government plans to launch a digital identity platform for citizens. The system will be built based on information from the country's identity card database and can be accessed on mobile devices.
The goal is to create an eID, which allows Germans to store their identity data securely on smartphones. Citizens will be able to use eID to open a bank account, use government online services, among other resources.
In 2015, Uruguay launched its electronic national identification card. Although it is not exactly a digital identity, the system has all citizens' data, is used to recognize them and allows access to government services. In addition, it has a biometric validation that allows the registration of up to four notices of each citizen to make the recognition more effective and allows the verification of users without contact with their documents.
The program is similar to that of Estonia, where there is a unified portal for different types of services. The government expects to authenticate different types of transactions, including financial ones, and to digitize 100% of public services.
The French government is working to launch Alicem, an application that will allow citizens, who use the internet, to be able to reliably identify themselves in their online procedures. To use the system, at the time of registration, the citizen must undergo a facial recognition. The application will compare the user's face with that of the passport or residence permit and check if he is who he says he is. The project is still under discussion in the country.
Since 2015, Peru has had a National Electronic Identity Card (DNIe) from Peru issued by the National Registry of Identification and Civil Status (Reniec). The system has already been recognized as the best identity card in Latin America.
DNIe proves the physical and virtual identity of citizens. Each document includes two digital certificates. One allows the cardholder to sign electronic documents and check their handwritten signatures.
In Italy, the citizen does not need to go to an agency in person or show physical identification. They use SPID, a system that requires a username and password to grant access to Italian government services online. The system replaces the National Service Card (CNS) with chip and pin, the Regional Service Card (CRS) or the Electronic Identification Card (CIE), which depends on a card reader to connect to the computer. The SPID can be managed by the smartphone.
Until March 2021, all sectors of public administration will have to allow access via SPID from March next year and the transition period, in which other systems are yet to be accepted, runs until September of the same year.
Australians use an application, called myGovID, to authenticate themselves to websites and services offered by the country's government. Launched in 2019, the application was developed to unify the various authentication methods used by the federal and local government. Through the application, citizens are able to verify their identities, using biometric data, such as fingerprints or FaceID.