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Cautious G20 digital declaration recognizes digital ID’s importance

Cautious G20 digital declaration recognizes digital ID’s importance

Inclusive digital identity as a key component in a global economic recovery and governmental transformation has been formally recognized as one of the twelve actions of the Declaration of G20 digital ministers. The group also established the Digital Economy Working Group. However, on the digital ID side, the digital ministers seem to be playing catch-up with industry developments and want to continue in a learning phase.

Under the Italian presidency, the host pushed for sustainable economic growth, inclusion, governance and smaller enterprises in plan to be discussed by the digital ministers of the G20 group of economies.

When the panel met on Friday in Trieste, Italy, a declaration on digital transformation was anticipated to include digital identity. It was identified as a key component in enabling the overall plan and was made one of the twelve action points for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the G20 priorities for 2021: people, planet and prosperity.

The summary of the declaration places digital identity alongside trustworthy artificial intelligence for smaller enterprises, sustainable growth and encouraging smart cities.

The full text of the digital declaration includes a mechanism for sharing digital identity practices and far more nuance not just on the benefits sought from using digital ID, but protections required alongside.

“We acknowledge that easily usable, reliable, secure, trusted, and portable digital identity solutions that guarantee privacy and the protection of personal data, could enable G20 Member States to meet the needs and expectations of public and private sector users and, for example, they could improve accessibility to social benefits, however provided,” states the full text of the declaration.

“We note that during the pandemic, the domestic adoption of digital identity to support access to both public and private sector services has accelerated.”

The document goes on to “support” technical solutions which will enable the giving of informed consent and data privacy and to “recognize” that access to government support should not be solely through digital ID “in order for citizens to meaningfully consent to the use of digital identity.”

“We must work to increase the use of digital identities such as electronic identification schemes that are operational between various platforms, sectors, and national borders,” said Vittorio Colao, Italy’s Minister for Technological Innovation and Digital Transition, speaking after the summit, reports Xinhua.

“This will help strengthen the relationship of trust that must exist between citizens and governments, something we have seen during the pandemic.”

The group “welcomes” the opportunity for more international dialogue via the ‘G20 Collection of Digital Identity Practices’ in collaboration with the OECD. This will gather “experiences of interoperable, portable and reusable digital identity as a tool that can transform the capacity of citizens to timely access the benefits and services they are entitled to.”

Such a learning exercise is intended to provide useful insights into the development and improvement of national eID schemes and harmonizing standards. The scheme will also pursue solutions for “internet-scarce” settings such as humanitarian and emergency scenarios.

“We must be open to greater experimentation in both the private and public sectors,” said Colao.

India’s delegates listed their country’s digital identity and digital transformation efforts so far. Minister of Electronics & Information Technology, Ashwini Vaishnaw said, “Providing digital identity Aadhaar to 1.29 billion users, opening bank accounts of 430 million poor people and linking both these to send the financial entitlements directly into bank accounts has eliminated leakages from delivery system,” reports India Education Diary.

“Around 900 million citizens are receiving benefits of one or more schemes. This has not only empowered the common citizens but has also led to savings of over US$24 billion in last seven years.”

A separate G20 meeting in Trieste resulted in the ‘Declaration on Leveraging Research, Higher Education and Digitalization for a Strong, Sustainable, Resilient and Inclusive Recovery,’ which calls for creating centers of excellence for advanced data-intensive research and data science skills worldwide and to find ways to make data-related knowledge easily searchable, interoperable and re-usable.

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