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Ukraine and Estonia show government digital ID leadership

Scotland initiative gets support of agency
Ukraine and Estonia show government digital ID leadership

Ukraine is making changes to its government-run digital ID app to support people dealing with the chaos in the war-torn country, perhaps drawing inspiration from nearby Estonia, which continues building up its digital ecosystem with a new startup incubator program. A little further behind on the curve, Scotland’s plan to increase public service access with digital ID has been endorsed by its background-checking body.

Special wartime digital ID designed for Ukrainians

The government-run smartphone app Diia, which was in use by millions in Ukraine before Russia’s invasion, has now been redesigned with the inclusion of a special simplified digital ID which can enable citizens get identified even without physical ID documents, Emerging Europe writes.

According to the publication, Diia, with 13 million users as of 2021, is as a platform from which to access public services online. It is also used as a digital wallet where users carry the digital versions of their official ID documents such as passports and driver’s licenses. The app also allows users to change their registered address, an important feature with millions displaced internally.

Authorities say the app has been redesigned not only for Ukrainians affected by the war to access financial assistance, but it now contains a special wartime digital ID which is available to all users and recognized by local law enforcement officers for personal identification purposes. Deals have been reached with neighboring countries for the new digital ID to be accepted, the report notes.

Emerging Europe quotes Ukrainian Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov as explaining the novelties of the Diia app. “Since February 24, we have reconfigured processes and focused on the public services that all Ukrainians need now, both military and civilians.”

“Our Diia app in wartime is not just e-documents and identification of citizens at checkpoints. Now it is also the opportunity to donate to the army; report on the movement of the enemy’s military troops and hardware; 24/7 access to TV and radio. It is also the possibility of imagining yourself as a Bayraktar operator. Our plans already include services that will help to rebuild our state; I would even say – plans to build something completely new and modern. And Diia will help,” Fedorov further states.

The app was launched in 2020, and Ukraine’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to give the digital ID it stores equal weight with physical passports last year.

Scotland’s digital ID initiative gets push from criminal records agency

Disclosure Scotland — the government agency responsible for conducting criminal checks on people assuming certain roles — has thrown its full weight by the Scottish government’s plans for a digital ID system to enhance access to public services.

UK Authority News quotes the institution’s deputy chief executive Kenny Birney as saying: “We in Disclosure Scotland are working to transform the critical services we offer, by enabling digital access to disclosure information. Due to the very sensitive nature of the information we hold, we need to have a way not only for users to sign in securely but also to verify their identity.”

Trudy Nicolson, director of the Digital Identity Program, underlined the pertinence of the partnership, saying it will help in the putting in place of the digital ID service platform. “As Scotland’s Digital Strategy emphasizes, public sector organisations (sic) should make use of the common platforms we are developing when delivering or transforming their digital services. We look forward to working with Disclosure Scotland, and other organisations to encourage take-up of the service.”

The government last year selected a contractor to help set up the digital ID system that will make it possible for Scots to access online services in a safer, easier, and more secure manner.

The first component of the scheme is dubbed Secure Sign On which will allow end users to access multiple services through a single set of login information.

Work has already begun on the new digital ID system as announced recently by Avoco Secure.

Estonia’s digital ID model cited as exemplary

An article by CNET posits that Estonia’s digital ID model, which makes it possible for citizens to have access to a variety of government services using a unified login system, is an example worth copying by other democracies.

The article explains how easy it is in Estonia for citizens to access public services online, including the ease with which potential voters can cast their ballot during elections from anywhere across the world. Digital voting has been possible in the country since 2005, the article notes. Many other activities can also be carried out from the comfort of the user’s home in just a matter of minutes, freeing citizens from the stress of having to show up in person to obtain services or complete certain procedures. According to the report, apart from getting married or divorced, there is almost nothing which Estonians cannot do online using digital ID.

The article explains that Estonia’s digital ID model saves the country money worth about two percent of its annual GDP, which enables it to channel the funds to other useful purposes. It also saves people time to do other important things, a former CIO of the Estonian government tells CNET.

The article highlights the testimony of a French man who works in Estonia. He praised the simplicity of Estonia’s digital government system which has rendered things easier for many.

Trust is also highlighted as a critical part of why the Estonia digital government system works.

During a visit to Kenya some time last year, then-Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said the country could borrow a leaf from the Baltic state to push ahead its digital transformation agenda.

In a related story, Creative Destruction Lab has announced that it is bringing a new Digital Society stream to Estonia to benefit from the country’s robust tech startup ecosystem.

According a press release, the body to be lodged in the University of Tartu will integrate Creative Destruction Lab’s global network of mentors, investors and entrepreneurs with Estonia’s globally renowned business and technology ecosystem.

Commenting on the development, Sten Tamkivi, partner at Taavet+Sten and founding partner of CDL-Estonia, said: “Estonia is already home for 1,300 startups, which is kind of absurd for a country of 1.2 million people. As a society, we’ve considered things like ubiquitous digital signatures and secure, paperless governance a comfortable norm for several decades — while still so many business environments dream of this as science fiction.”

Andres Sutt, the Estonian minister of entrepreneurship and IT, said: “It’s a win-win situation – universities help give expert knowledge to growing start-ups and the technology sector offers opportunities for universities, funding or possibility to put research into practice. Therefore, I am very pleased to see that the CDL program has arrived in Estonia in cooperation with the University of Tartu. CDL gives our growing start-ups access to world-class mentors and their knowledge, as well as to international capital. My goal is to have 25 Estonian unicorns by 2025, and I believe that together with the CDL, we will take a big step closer to achieving that.”

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