Singapore’s new digital identity system to include biometrics

March 7, 2017 - 

The Singapore government is evaluating biometrics, open APIs and e-payments for its new digital identity system, according to a report by GovInsider.

“I have asked the team to look at three features in the short term,” Minister in charge of Smart Nation, Vivian Balakrishnan, said in Parliament. “One, to include biometric elements; two, to enable encryption; and three, to have open Application Programming Interfaces.”

Biometrics could allow citizens to use their fingerprints to login to services, while the encryption function would allow them to securely send information or documents using their digital identity. The intended receiver would require a secret key to access the information.

Open APIs would allow organizations, including private enterprises, to integrate the digital identity features into their services.

As a result, Singaporeans would be able to use their ID to access internet banking and other services offered by businesses who use the API.

The existing digital authentication service SingPass is “not good enough”, Minister Balakrishnan said at last week’s budget debate. “We need to quickly upgrade this.”

Minister Balakrishnan said a national digital identity system “is absolutely essential if we are going to have secure transactions in the digital world”.

In 2014, hackers managed to breach 1,500 SingPass accounts, which use citizens’ national identity numbers to login.

The GovTech Agency is currently conducting a trial for a new digital identity system on a small scale, following its tender win last year to build a mobile digital ID solution.

The system would allow people to login to online services with a digital ID stored on their mobile devices.

In late February, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong cited Estonia’s digital identity system as a benchmark for the country.

The digital identity system enables Estonians to easily and securely access more than 1,000 government services, including browsing their health records.

The system also offers e-residency functionality, which allows any individual in the world to obtain an Estonian digital identity.

Minister Balakrishnan said that an e-payments system is another vital area for the Smart Nation Programme Office, as it would allow people to transfer money through mobile numbers from any bank account.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.