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Tuesday, 02 October 2018 22:31

Singapore on the road to a brave new digital identity


While Australia put paid to the concept of a national identity card in 1986, Singapore boldly went forth and established its SingPass (Singapore Personal Access) system in 2003. Now, the innovative little nation of four million is taking a step further with plans to give every citizen an online digital identity.

The National Digital Identity (NDI) project, which seeks to give every Singapore citizen a personal PKI-based digital certificate using multi-factor authentication, is one of the government’s five major national digitisation projects, and will be officially launched before the end of the year.

The NDI will be a more advanced method of authenticating a user’s identity online. It is planned to be operational in 2020, with progressive trials for digital signatures to facilitate paperless transactions. As part of NDI, the Singapore Government will be launching the SingPass Mobile app later this year. It will be an alternative to the existing 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) modes to provide citizens more choices and easier access to government digital services.

NDI will provide every Singapore resident over the age of 15 with a multi-factor authenticated digital ID through their smartphones using facial recognition, as well as other methods.

The Singapore Government expects to get buy-in from the largest sectors of private industry such as banks and health insurers, which will be able to use NDI to authenticate prospective clients.

Officials working on the National Digital Identity project believe it will provide Singapore citizens, who obviously have a far higher level of trust in their government than Australians do in theirs, with several benefits, including:

  • One-click registration online;
  • Seamless bank account opening;
  • Instant credit card approval;
  • Much easier applications for big ticket finance items such as home loans; and
  • Integrated services, such as paying car registration and insurance in one transaction.

“This about issuing every Singapore citizen one non-refutable non-repudiable unique identity,” said Kwok Quek Sin, senior director, National Digital Identity Program.

“Primarily it is about moving data across boundaries. What are the digital enablers we need to build to support digitalisation of economies? We need a universally trusted framework to enable authorisation to access data.”

According to Kwok, the NDI program is totally voluntary, but only a small minority will not want to participate in the scheme.

He said that in the past 15 years since its launch there have been more than 2.5 million active users of the SingPass national ID card and he believes that there will be similar buy-in for NDI.

While the official launch of the NDI will be before the end of 2018, biometrics trials will begin in mid-2019, with full implementation expected to be sometime in 2020.

Further information can be found at the NDI Portal.

The writer is attending the Stack conference as a guest of the Singapore Government.

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Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 35 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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