The Cost of Driving National ID Programs to Digital

What are the costs for a country to design, implement and succeed in its transition to digital citizen IDs? We will look at the costs and considerations to moving to digital ID, and we’ll explain why experienced companies from the identity sector are in the best position to ensure a smooth coexistence between traditional and digital ID programs.

Digital Drivers License on Smartphone

Digital Brings Many Benefits

The benefits brought by digital identity are numerous, including new government-proposed services like instant issuance of ID, more convenience for citizens through remote services, value-added services and convenience for private sectors like banks or rental companies, and improved security from data encryption and secure transactions.

Digital Identity Will Take Several Forms

Traditional identity industry companies are working hard to define the future standard of digital identity alongside several IT industry giants like Google and Apple.

Digital identity can take several forms: stored on a mobile phone, stored on the electronic chip of an ID card or even completely dematerialized with a unique identity number which can then direct to biometric data stored on a server.

Very few identity industry experts will say that the future of national ID programs are not at least partly digital.

Financial Costs to Digital ID

However, one aspect of digital identity must not be overlooked ― cost. What does a digital national ID cost? Financial cost will depend on the scope of the project and the readiness of the current existing program. There are costs for infrastructure, mobile application and its maintenance, AFIS, specific Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), digital verification devices, new types of enrollment and new databases.

Time as a Cost

Another major cost is time. Not just project implementation time, but the time it takes for new legislation to be agreed on and adopted before digital ID can even be officially accepted in a country. Other time considerations include defining the scope of the project with industry consultants and experts, approving and allocating a budget and implementing new administrative processes and rules. Finally, there is the project implementation and adoption of the new services by the citizen. Such a project can take years before becoming fully operational.

The Government as the Provider of Identity

Let’s talk about ownership and sovereignty.

In principle, an individual is the sole owner of their identity. However, it is the country of nationality and/or the country of residence (depending on the type of document) that is responsible for providing the individual with the means to legally prove their identity. This is a governmental matter, and it should remain the case for many legal reasons. There might be a high temptation to outsource digital identity to the private sector, but should this be done at the expense of a country’s sovereignty over the identity of its own citizens?

Digital and Physical ID Can Only Work Side by Side

We know that traditional, physical forms of proving identity, like identity cards, are here to stay for the foreseeable future, as explained in our white paper, Physical and Mobile IDs Work Together to Protect Your Identity and blog post The Physical Document Is Here to Stay. However, the digital part of the citizen identity must be part of a physical identity solution. If it becomes a separate project with all its specific components ― from data collection and citizen enrollment to database management and issuance of identity ― how can the government ensure that its citizen identity remains unique and updated in a consistent manner? The cost and the repercussion of duplicating false or outdated citizen data can be tremendous, especially when identity thieves are looking to take advantage of opportunities and glitches.

Last but not least, by trusting a partner who can offer both the traditional ID document issuance and the digital solution, governments can approach the transition to digital identity in a much smoother way ― by including both aspects of the identity solution in a single project. This approach allows the implementation of a system that will provision the citizen digital identity in tandem with the personalization of the ID document ― from the same issuance system and database, ensuring a smooth and secure process.

Read more about our digital ID solution goID.

Vincent Gourmelen is the Product Manager for ID card solutions at HID Global – CID. He has 7 years’ experience in this position. Prior to that he was working in the industrial IoT market and was developing solutions for the industry together with telecom operators in Europe.