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Digital ID increasingly critical to people and businesses, webinar panel suggests

Experts from TransUnion, The Economist, UN and McKinsey weigh in
Digital ID increasingly critical to people and businesses, webinar panel suggests

National and digital IDs can impact the lives of individuals while benefiting consumer-facing companies, attendees of the webinar ‘Simplifying Transactions While Building Digital Trust: The Impact of Emerging Technologies on a Global Economy,’ hosted by TransUnion, heard from a panel of experts on initiatives in development for consumers and businesses. Topics discussed included national digital IDs, biometrics and privacy regulations, digital transformations and artificial intelligence, super-apps and digital wallets.

Because national and digital IDs make things easier – allowing people to open bank accounts, make financial transfers and travel across borders – they are viewed as beneficial to consumer facing companies. In the Economist Intelligence Unit’s survey, 85 percent expected biometric to be used to authenticate the vast majority of payments in the next ten years.

Furthermore, the survey found that in the U.S. over 1 in 4 small businesses reported an increase in contactless payments services; while In India, digital payments swelled by 42 percent.

A smooth customer journey is becoming an essential part of business. Moderator John Ferguson, director of macroeconomics at The Economist Intelligence Unit, pointed out that 85 percent of people in The Economist survey said smooth transitions to digital services were now essential to (business) survival.

Ferguson asked panelist Tim Martin, executive vice president and chief global solutions officer at TransUnion, about what building trust in a consumer landscape looks like. “Through providing a comprehensive view of the consumer and being good stewards of any data collected. By helping consumers be confident in their digital identity, that their data is secure, and is available to them when they want it,” Martin states.

In the absence of regulated national programs, it is unclear what businesses can do to establish programs around protecting personally identifying information. Martin states that lack of identification credentials could impact up to an estimated 1 billion of the world’s population, which could inhibit access to digital commerce. “In the absence of a national digital ID program, businesses are working hard to find alternative means for effective identity proofing,” he says.

Solutions like seamless onboarding and digital identity resolution are part of helping to create a more level playing field and help people access more services.

Panelist Leigh Smyth, strategic advisor at the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative believes that this is an opportunity to help the untapped market. “In the UK, 12 million people don’t have basic digital skills,” while 9 million, she says, cannot access a digital device without help. Smyth adds that current digitisation has driven inclusion, especially for vulnerable people during the pandemic. She maintains that future digital inclusion should be sustainable.

Panelist Udai Kaura, associate partner at McKinsey, says the pace of digitization has been rapid following the COVID-19 outbreak last year. A by-product of social distancing measures has been the acceleration of digitization across industries; “McKinsey’s survey found most organisations were 7 years ahead in the development of digital products than they had previously projected,” Kaura added.

Kaura provides suggestions on the efficacy of future digital wallets and super apps based on current statistics. Consumer scale is a predictor; for example, about 80 to 90 percent of China’s population use WeChat. Or via customer journey to gain scale; offering more products and services creates more customer data – which allow the super apps to analyse the data using AI and ML tools to then create a better customer offering.

Kaura notes that “super apps are both a powerful enabler of the digital economy, but since the apps concentrate so much information, they become a potential point of failure. In Asia super apps have really taken off because of the underlying dynamics of the market.”

During the Q&A session panelists were asked how offline ID experiences translate to online ones. “Some of the risks associated with conventional ID programmes are also valid for digital IDs. Digital IDs can and do meaningfully reduce those risks, for example, for conventional databases, reconciliation of data may be impossible,” states Kaura.

Digital IDs can reduce the risk of forgery and unauthorised use – which are relativity easy with conventional IDs. Yet there is still the risk of leaving a huge part of the population out of the circuit, and creators need to ensure that the promise of a well-rounded digital ID is fully realised for everyone.

Smyth identified that trust within AI and digital services is a huge barrier to adoption. She advocates for a greater deal of transparency within technology, hoping that this will remove the stereotype around the fear and focus on using tech for good causes.

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