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World Bank highlights Lebanon’s “ambitious journey” to a secure digital identity

World Bank highlights Lebanon’s “ambitious journey” to a secure digital identity
 

Lebanon is attempting to build up its digital identity system as part of what the World Bank calls “an ambitious journey to build its digital public infrastructure” as part of a long-term digital transformation plan.

The World Bank is supporting the design and implementation of digital ID in Lebanon, as explained in a blog post. Lebanon is presently experiencing severe economic, financial, and political challenges, but recognized the transformative power of digital ID. As part of its 2020-2030 Digital Transformation Strategy (DTS), supported by World Bank financing, Lebanon is setting up a digital identity system to increase efficiency, decrease fraud and promote accessibility to public services.

The role of digital identity in Lebanon

To enhance public delivery and private services, Lebanon’s digital transformation strategy takes digital identity as its central element. Interactions between individuals, governments, and companies are enhanced by a digital ID that allows secure and reliable authentication. For instance, citizens can authenticate themselves from remote locations which minimizes traveling expenses as well as waiting time. This offers many benefits to the government which will be able to save time and cut down fraud aand digital identity theft, while businesses will have an easier time abiding by laws at a lower cost.

The Lebanese Government’s 2020-2030 Digital Transformation Strategy aims to address these challenges through building a robust digital ID system. Immediate actions include improving data accuracy and conducting stakeholder consultations. Medium-term goals include legal and institutional reforms to promote the adoption of digital identity. Long-term objectives involve attaining legal equivalence for digital identities and embarking upon the development of a comprehensive data-sharing architecture between different government ministries in the country. Through all these steps Lebanon is looking forward to positioning the foundation for trust and efficiency required to drive its digital transformation process, thus supporting long-term economic growth.

 Lebanon’s digital transformation initiative

The World Bank has partnered with Lebanon to provide technical assistance and support the implementation of DTS, focusing on creating a next-generation digital government architecture, improving IT infrastructure, and accelerating digital service delivery. To tackle the country’s social and economic challenges, the Lebanese government under the leadership of The Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform (OMSAR) introduced the Digital Transformation Strategy. The aim is to update its digital infrastructure and thus enhance government-to-person transactions and curb corruption. This DTS stresses upon developing a robust DPI anchored on digital identity.

The current state of Lebanon’s identity system

Lebanon’s existing identity systems, which include civil registration and national ID cards, are facing several issues. The civil registration system is predominantly paper-based and decentralized, limiting its potential for digital change. Although the national ID card system is digitized and incorporates fingerprint biometrics, it has outdated information, a lack of connectivity with other systems, and insufficient digital authentication capabilities, according to the Bank. The World Bank’s Lebanon ID Diagnostic and Lebanon Digital ID Use Cases reports, published in January, emphasize these flaws, citing a lack of incentives for citizens to update their data and a lack of systems for checking the validity of ID cards.

The World Bank says that 4.4 million people hold NIDs, but as people under 15 years old do not submit biometrics to obtain the ID card, only 3.8 million of those can be used for biometric authentication.

The ID Diagnostic report notes that Lebanon uses an automated biometric identification system and biometric enrollment kits supplied by Idemia.

The NID card has compromised trust for in-person transactions, can’t be used for online transactions and the passport system is irreconcilable with the unique NID. In the absence of robust digital ID systems in Lebanon, sectors have resorted to exploiting various workaround solutions. These restrictions impede the efficient use of national ID transactions and destabilize trust in government services, addressing these difficulties is crucial to Lebanon’s digital transformation ambitions.

Steps toward a digital identity ecosystem

In light of these challenges, the World Bank urges the establishment of robust future sectoral identification systems in Lebanon to properly support particular use cases. This would require extensive legal reforms for full digitalization, unique NID numbers starting from birth, and system interoperability. National identity cards must be authenticated and updated regularly. Digital ID systems must provide digital authentication, electronic signatures, and unique identifiers for data sharing. Authoritative sources require a strong governance structure and dynamic updating capabilities. Finally, a government-level data-sharing gateway and data governance structure are required for secure and efficient data interchange.

Recommendations from the World Bank

Key immediate actions recommended by the World Bank include making use of existing barcodes to validate NID cards and implementing data verification services. The strategic improvement will involve stakeholder consultations, enhancing interoperability between databases as well as the development of robust policies for data governance. The World Bank emphasizes stakeholder engagements should include civil society to ensure an effective, inclusive, and secure digital ID system that supports Lebanon’s extensive digital transformation goals.

If successful, Lebanon’s DTS 2020-2030 will create a strong digital identification system to increase efficiency, minimize fraud, and improve public service access. The benefits will include increasing data accuracy, and interoperability, and are centered on legal reforms for comprehensive data-sharing frameworks to promote a digital future.

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