Digital Identities – the linchpin to unlocking the digital economy

Last updated: 26 February 2019

Emerging technologies such as Artificial intelligence (AI), Machine learning (ML), the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and disruptive business models such as those of Uber, Spotify and Airbnb, have already caused major disruption on industries. Indeed, the Internet and always-on connectivity, combined with a series of exciting breakthroughs, are enabling new collaborations.

New technologies have been developing with a tremendous fast pace to keep up with business and consumer needs. This means that traditional paper-based identification methods don’t work as effectively anymore. Digital identity solutions have become the strategic foundation of business transformation, as they provide the building block to driving customer engagement, reducing friction and personalizing interactions, while ensuring security and trust at the same time.

When we refer to the digital revolution, we tend to speak about industry shakers that are having an impact not only on services but to the economies in both emerging and developed markets. For example, banks in Belgium use online document verification and biometrics to enable remote customer enrolment, while India has successfully deployed a digital identity scheme called “Aadhaar”, used to enable easy and secure access to financial services for remote communities.

Let’s take a look at some key examples of how digital identity can create value for our economies:

  • Cost and time savings: Institutions and companies using trusted digital IDs could see significant cost-reduction in customer onboarding, with the time taken for these interactions reduced form days to just minutes. For example, in Estonia digital ID-enabled online voting saves an average of 11 000 working days per election. In India, a typical firm’s onboarding cost is usually around 1,500 rupees ($23), but with the Aadhaar system in place, it’s estimated that onboarding costs could plummet to as little as 10 rupees ($0.15).
  • Fraud savings: Digital IDs can reduce identity fraud in a wide range of transactions.This is key because according to the 2018 Identity Fraud: Fraud Enters a New Era of Complexity report from Javelin Strategy & Research, the amount stolen hit $16.8 billion in 2017 in U.S
  • Improved market efficiency: Digital onboarding can improve customer experience across digital channels and create new opportunities for services and products. A good example is the Indian Telecom provider Jio who enrolled 160 million new customers in less than 18 months using eKTC – a system enabled by Aadhaar.
  • Increased identifiable consumer base: The lack of identity documents is a barrier to access public and private services such as education, healthcare, social protection, telecommunications and banking, that require a proof of identity. In Pakistan, Telenor was able to leverage the national ID and government-mandated SIM registration to expand the customer base for its Easypaisa payments service, which reached 20 million users in 2018.

Digital identity provides a significant opportunity for value creation for both individuals and institutions. For emerging economies, much of the value can be created through a combination of digital ID with authentication alone, transforming the lives of people who lack an official proof of identity (one billion as per World Bank ID4D). In such countries, digital identity can not only reduce the cost of current operations, improve ID coverage, provide access to education, labor market, and healthcare, but can also provide non-economic value such as social inclusion, human-rights protection and transparency.

For developing markets like the UK, France, Denmark, Netherlands and Belgium, many processes are already digitalized, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t require improvements. This could be achieved through digital ID schemes that enable seamless experiences across channels to access more services and reduce customer friction.

We are working to enable “trusted digital identity” via technologies like biometrics, big data and AI to create vast opportunities for both organizations and customers and enable secure, private and trusted collaboration across the ecosystem.

This is just a glance of all the possibilities, which we’ll be discussing in more detail at MWC. I’ll be speaking at a panel discussion, A Digital Society Needs Digital Identity, on Wednesday 27th February at 14:45 CET in Hall 4 – Auditorium 2, so do pop in if interested in hearing more. See you there!

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