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World Bank experts cite Philippines’ ID system as good example of ‘digital stack’

World Bank experts cite Philippines’ ID system as good example of ‘digital stack’

Two experts who contributed to the operationalization of the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) posit that it is a good example of a country that built a digital ID ecosystem which combines the ‘digital stack’ trilogy of a foundational ID, digital payments and digital data governance platforms, to facilitate the implementation of social assistance programs.

‘Digital stack’ is a notion which has been mentioned frequently lately as far as digital ID is concerned. It refers to how a digital ecosystem integrates different components such as digital ID, payments and digital data sharing method to solve social problems.

In an interview published on the blog section of the World Bank website, Yoonyong Cho, a senior economist at the Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice and Task Leader of Beneficiary FIRST Social Protection Project and the Philippines G2Px program, as well as Jonathan Marskell, a senior program officer at the ID4D initiative working with the PhilSys, both explain the importance of the PhilID and how it is in addressing social intervention programs.

The World Bank through the ID4D initiative is also supporting the development of a digital ecosystems throughout the developing world.

Responding to a question on the importance of the PhilSys, Marskell says the first thing is that it acts as the only proof of ID for Filipinos and comes as a solution to the problem of lack of a primary ID hitherto faced by many of the country’s citizens.

Corroborating Marskell, Cho adds that with the PhilID, “citizens accessing government-to-persons (G2P) payments can easily prove their identity using the national ID without a lengthy application process and with less paperwork and receive benefits through digital channels quickly and securely without a long travel and wait time.”

The PhilSys has also enabled the acceleration of the country’s financial inclusion efforts with millions of bank accounts opened by PhilID holders.

Asked to explain the ‘digital stack’ notion in simple terms, Marskell says it is the trilogy that “brings together three core functions … required for nearly all digital services: the ability to verify someone’s identity (digital ID), the ability to send and receive money (digital payments), and the ability to verify certain facts from authoritative databases (trusted data sharing).

Cho and Marskell explain that one other benefit of the PhilSys is that it has revolutionized the government cash delivery program thanks to partnerships with financial service providers and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

“DSWD’s beneficiaries are the Filipinos who have the most to gain by having a digital ID. Many will be able to more easily access government services, with less direct and indirect costs, such as taking time off to obtain different documents to prove their identity,” says Marskell.

Yoonyoung also recommends that bringing about real digital innovation requires a shift from the “business-as-usual” approach, which means a change in “process, people and technology.”

Meanwhile, the ‘digital stack’ question mentioned by the World Bank experts is elaborately addressed in a report produced by ID4D and G2PX published in February.

Titled ‘A digital stack for transforming service delivery: ID, Payments and Data Sharing,’ the report looks at digital stacks and their core layers and how important they became for government social intervention programs following the outbreak of COVID, plus the significant gaps and challenges that remain to be fixed, among other issues.

The report also mentions ‘India Stack’ as another good example of a digital stack that is working on a societal scale and across sectors. This stack, the report indicates, combines interfaces between the Aadhaar digital ID system, the unified Payment Interface (UPI), the Data Empowerment and Protection Architecture (DEPA), e-Sign and Digi-Locker, which all allow the private sector to build their services on top of these digital layers.

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