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Canadian CIO outlines strategy with digital ID focus

Canadian CIO outlines strategy with digital ID focus

Canada’s chief information officer (CIO) says she is looking to refresh the country’s digital strategy with major reforms, one being a heavy emphasis on digital identity.

CIO Catherine Luelo told the Global Government Forum that the 2022 federal budget promised greater legislative latitude for the Canadian Digital Service to provide its digital platform more broadly, jolting its role as an internal innovator for the government.

The digital innovation strategy will seek to promote four pillars, and digital identity is one of them. “We are getting very aggressive with the fact that we need to advance the digital identity file for Canada,” she says.

Over the next six months, Luelo says the Office of the Chief Information Officer will collaborate with Canada’s provinces and territories on a workable plan for three layers of digital identity. The first involves moving national bodies to a common enterprise platform for federal services to compress their platforms into a single location, rather than “46 existing front doors.” The second layer will develop a “pan-Canadian trust framework” to set rules for data management. The third layer entails an ‘integration transit layer’ to ensure compatibility with digital IDs across the public sector, “so that the provincial ID is usable for all services, and all services link into this common platform, and there’s a handshake.”

The overhauled digital strategy is Luelo’s attempt to address concerns she raised at IdentityNORTH in April, where she warned that Canada is “very far behind” on national digital ID.

Luelo established a program office and an ad hoc group of senior officials to pursue digital ID, the Global Government Forum reports, and she told the Forum that President of the Treasury Board Mona Fortier is placing it as a top priority. Contrary to her bleak statement in April, Luelo expressed more optimism, saying, “I feel we’re well positioned and well supported.”

Cross-country digital ID checkup

Currently, Canada does not have a national digital ID, but the provinces and territories have their own initiatives at various stages of development. IT World Canada summarized the state of the country’s digital ID by each province and territory.

In Ontario, Canada’s most populous and economically powerful province, plans for a 2022 launch of the digital ID was delayed, with no updates on a deadline made since then. The province says the provincial digital ID will allow access to government resources, make age-sensitive purchases, and prove one’s identity for actions like opening a bank account.

Quebec plans for a digital ID by 2025 to include government-issued health insurance cards, driver’s licenses, birth certificates, and documents issued by private companies like proof of automobile insurance.

British Columbia operated a digital ID since 2002 with BCeID, an identity and authentication service that enables access to all government services.

Alberta offers MyAlberta Digital ID, a service that allows residents to prove their identity online, eliminate paper documentation, and grant access to government services.

The prairie provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba do not have digital ID. Saskatchewan put its plans on ice to see how other provinces implement their digital IDs, and IT World Canada says it is hearing proposals from companies interested in developing a system. Manitoba’s government did not introduce firm plans for digital ID, says IT World Canada.

The Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick are said to be in various stages of development, with most having only deployed pilots, proof of concepts, or online digital ID components such as single sign-on. The region projects the use of digital ID to support trade and commerce to participate in the digital economy and society.

The northern territories of the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut use eID-Me, a mobile app from Bluink that digitizes IDs on smartphones.

About eight-in-ten Canadians support digital IDs, according to a survey by the Digital ID and Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC).

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