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Challenges for digital IDs, yes, but enticements among early adopters too

Challenges for digital IDs, yes, but enticements among early adopters too

It is still a far piece until researchers have hard, comparable numbers on what digital IDs can contribute to or save national economies, but some encouraging insights and anecdotes are surfacing.

An online Global Government Forum seminar held earlier this month promised insights on building an ID verification program can go for countries lacking a national ID. (It could have snarkily carried a sub-headline: Nudge, nudge, United States.)

The international panel, which included Saurabh Garg, CEO of India’s Unique ID Authority, offered up sobering assessments and (addressable) challenges.

It would be impossible to have the discussion without noting that absent a working national ID system, “progress will always be relatively fragmented, costly and slow,” according to the forum’s summary page for the discussion.

Ari Kristinsson, CEO of the Iceland government’s Digital Iceland agency, contends that there are people being left behind by early eID programs despite best efforts. The elderly, the disabled and those still without a smartphone are lagging, he and the other panelists say.

The reality is, according to Kristinsson, that Digital Iceland is still working to digitize the remaining core offline segments of the government.

He and the other speakers agree that there is not even a process common among them for enabling one person with a digital ID to help someone legitimately without in terms of getting government services.

What about the need to create laws for cross-border acceptable eIDs?

“A legal framework that covers the whole world can be pretty hard to arrange,” according to a deadpan Tor Alvik, subject director of Norway’s Digitalization Directorate. “I think, on a global scale … this is quite in the distance.”

And international operating standards?

Creating them is “not insurmountable but there certainly are some big questions to tackle there,” according to Miguel Carrasco, a managing director for Boston Consulting Group (which sponsored the discussion).

Garg, a well-known name on the topic of eIDs, offered some specific hope for the audience.

India, of course, has a monumental head start with its extremely successful biometrics-based Aadhaar digital ID program. He said that financial inclusion alone has seen welcome acceptance.

More than 400 million bank accounts have been opened in the nation using digital IDs. That is previously unrecognized economic growth – new savings and credit accounts – that now can positively impact the economy.

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