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Digital identity plans, public and private sector roles taking shape in the Netherlands and Panama



The Dutch government’s approach to digital identity will be based on government issuance and recognition, while Panama has selected Mastercard to support its digital ID vision.

Michiel van der Veen of the National Service for Identity Data (RvIG) and Wouter Welling of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) explained the Netherlands’ digital ID ambitions, from both the government and private sector sides, to iBestuur.

A Vision Letter submitted to the Dutch legislature by State Secretary Raymond Knops of BZK sets out challenges and opportunities around digital identity, and the government’s intentions to enable reliable data-sharing, organize access to digital services, issue a recognized foundational digital identity and establish the accompanying laws and regulations, according to a Google translation of the report.

Welling points out that the greater value of digital identity is from data exchanges, such as signing digital contracts, rather than the access control application that people typically associate digital ID with. The foundational digital identity the Dutch government intends to set up would the authoritative source to enable the trust and security necessary for these kinds of valuable exchanges. Welling compared the incoming digital identity to a passport, which is used as a foundation for functional IDs like bank or insurance cards.

“By issuing a source identity as a government, we build trust in the digital world,” says Van der Veen, who previously served as CEO of the European Association for Biometrics (EAB). “With a source identity you can lay down principles for privacy, such as privacy by design. It will promote online safety, transparency and inclusivity. Because where a commercial party may exclude certain groups because they are not that interesting commercially, a government must simply ensure that it is accessible to everyone.”

Accessibility to everyone means there must a non-digital option, he says.

The report notes McKinsey’s estimate that country’s can boost their GDP by 3 to 13 percent per year with effective digital identity.

Most of that growth is expected to come from private sector interaction, with the Netherlands’ DigiD providing a way for people to interact with business across the EU under eIDAS regulation, which is set for an update this year.

Stakeholders form the EC and other bodies gave positive feedback about the Dutch scheme at the recent Dutch Digital 2021 conference, though the article notes that for many in the private sector, action seems to be taking a long time. Welling points to slow and boring change to public policy and infrastructure for digital identity as virtues, however, in terms of social and political acceptability.

Panama partners with Mastercard

Panama is taking a different approach, tapping Mastercard to promote its digital agenda and provide access to it cybersecurity solutions and Mastercard Digital ID.

Under the Digital Country Partnership agreement between Mastercard and the Panamanian Government Innovation Authority (AIG), the payments giant will support the country’s efforts to educate citizens and small business owners on digital payments, cybersecurity, digital identity and related topics. The key intended benefits include greater financial inclusion, by providing accounts to the currently-unbanked and exploring opportunities for social benefits programs.

Mastercard’s Digital Allies platform will be made available to promote digital payments, multi-modal access cards will be issued for transit payments, and data and analytics will be provided to promote a recovery in the tourism sector, when appropriate.

This partnership, the first of its kind in Latin America, will combine Mastercard’s capabilities and experience as an industry leader, to drive a program that facilitates digital acceleration in areas such as commerce, social benefit sharing, transportation, tourism, and economic development for small and medium-sized companies, thus creating a future in which technology acts as an inclusive enabler of national progress,” states Michael Froman, vice chairman and president of Strategic Growth for Mastercard in the announcement.

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