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Bhutan launches self-sovereign biometric digital ID, crown prince first to enroll

Bhutan launches self-sovereign biometric digital ID, crown prince first to enroll

Bhutan’s seven-year-old crown prince His Royal Highness Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck led the way as the first Bhutanese to be enrolled into the country’s new national digital ID system (NDI) in a recent ceremony that took place on his father’s birthday.

According to reporting by the state-run Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS), the NDI is a digital wallet that uses state-of-the-art technologies to provide citizens with secure and verifiable ID credentials.

It is built using a self-sovereign identity model based on decentralized ID technology which gives users greater control over their ID and allows them to choose who they can share personal data with, per the report. The NDI is similar to India’s Aadhaar biometric ID system.

Authorities of Bhutan’s government technology agency (GovTech) have said that the launch of the NDI is a major move forward within the framework of the country’s digital transformation ambitions.

“What digital ID does is that it essentially combines a number of technologies such as cryptography and biometrics. Putting these technologies together, we are able to link the real person to the digital identity. This enables us to move confidently to the online platform. This is the main reason why digital identity is so important for us,” GovTech acting secretary Jigme Tenzing told BBS.

“Once we do this, we will be able to move to a full online platform where we can remove the need for signing, scanning and submitting physical documents. Through this, we can open bank accounts remotely and we can do almost virtually everything in terms of the services that are provided by the government,” he added.

Developed by Druk Holding and Investment Limited (DHI), the commercial arm of the royal government, the NDI will have citizens eight years old and above enrolled into it. Biometric enrolment for the system, which was first launched in 2021, has now been opened and the rollout of the ID will happen progressively, say GovTech officials, as reported by CNBC TV 181.

This out mentions that apart from the ID card, the NDI wallet will carry other information including health, tax filings, education and census records as well as revenue and bank statements, and business documents.

Meanwhile, commenting on the launch of the system, Business Insider India quotes DHI InnoTech Director Ujjwal D Dahal as saying: “We are proud to work with GovTech Bhutan as a development partner on this important project which will help transform the way citizens and all visitors to Bhutan will interact with government and private sector organizations in the future.”

“Bhutan NDI will ensure that the citizens and residents can access the services they need in a secure and efficient manner. We aspire to be pioneers in this technology space in solving problems within and beyond our boundaries.”

Bhutan saw huge crowds queuing up for hours last December to obtain biometric passports as the foreign ministry called on citizens to replace their temporary travel documents with passports.

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