Editorial

Digital Identity: Global Roundup

Digital identity news from around the world

Posted 12 July 2021 by Christine Horton


New Zealand

The New Zealand government will establish a consumer data right framework for the country.

A consumer data right is a mechanism that requires data holders, such as banks and electricity retailers, to safely and securely share data with third parties (such as fintech companies) following consent from the customer.

It would allow New Zealanders to gain access to a wider range of products and services that better met their needs, reports Reseller News.

“Consumers should be in the driver’s seat when it comes to how their personal information is used by third parties,” said commerce and consumer affairs minister David Clark.

The announcement is part of a slew of digital developments out of Wellington, including planned legislation announced in May to set rules for the delivery of digital identity services called a “digital identity trust framework”.

The government is also evaluating an algorithm charter and a new digital ombudsman role to increase trust as technology becomes the major channel for citizen interaction and decision-making.

Nigeria

The Public and Private Development Center (PPDC) — a civil society organization that monitors government procurements in Nigeria — says its research underlines the need for Nigeria’s federal government to define a clear legal framework to govern the procurement and deployment of Digital Technology Systems (DTSs), like those used in its national digital ID scheme.

ACIR Nigeria reports that the PPDC made the call recently during a session to validate its ‘Country Report on Government Procurement of Digital Technology Systems in Nigeria.’

The organization said because no such legal framework exists, Nigerian citizens do not have a full understanding of how their government acquires and deploys systems such as artificial intelligence, facial recognition and digital identity solutions.

As a result of the lack of such legislation, companies have made DTS procurements in the past, sometimes with utter disregard for provisions of the Public Procurement Act 2007 – the law that governs all public procurement of goods, works and services by the federal government and other public agencies. This, the organization said, could lead to corruption.

Such a law would not only create an atmosphere of transparency, but will help build the confidence of citizens in such digital systems some of which are being used by security agencies as well as other institutions, according to PPDC.

Belgium

Brussels-based itsme, a secure mobile phone app that lets users confirm their personal ID and share data during digital interactions, has raised €24.7M in a fresh round of funding.

The round saw participation from Federal Participation and Investment Company (FPIM) with €14.5M investment and thereby acquired a 20 percent stake in the Belgian identity app.

itsme is a consortium of seven private companies, Belfius Bank, BNP Paribas Fortis, ING Belgium, KBC Bank, Orange Belgium, Proximus, and Telenet. They will now be joined by FPIM/SFPI, the Federal Holding and Investment Company.

Besides, this round also saw investment from six other shareholders from the banking and telecommunications sectors each injecting €1.7M into itsme.

In April 2018, the existing shareholders also contributed an amount of €13.4M.

Global

Public benefit corporation Indicio.tech has announced the twenty-one companies backing its global network for blockchain-based decentralised identity. With each company hosting a copy of Indicio’s public ledger, the Indicio Network enables companies and organisations to provide privacy-preserving ways of proving identity and authenticity to people, businesses, and the Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

“Decentralised identity is the foundation for a revolution in digital services,” said Indicio’s CEO, Heather Dahl, “and we’re proud to see so many leaders in digital innovation run nodes on the network. They make the Indicio Network the premier community for developing the future of identity.”

The Indicio Network is composed of three networks, a MainNet, for deploying products and services, a TestNet for development, and a DemoNet for pilot and product demonstration—all three networks host the latest monitoring and service tools.

Indicio Node Operators are spread over five continents:

GlobaliD, USA; Uphold, Portugal; ID Ramp, USA; Cynjatech, USA; Finclusive, USA; Xertify, Colombia; Snowbridge Inc., Taiwan; Entrustient, USA; Bot Ventures, Inc., Canada; BlockSpaces, USA; Blockster Labs, Anonyome Labs, Australia; Selfd.id, Romania; Liquid Avatar Technologies, Canada; Snapper Future Tech, India; Lorica Identity, USA; BizSecure, USA; Networks Synergy, Kazakhstan; Absolutely Zero Cyber, USA; Cysecure, USA; VERSES Labs, USA

United States

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is trying to force the federal government to strengthen its digital identity policies, according to a NextGov report. The House of Representative’s Improving Digital Identity Act does not seem to offer much in the way of concrete regulations, but does include a series of initiatives that would update and enhance the government’s outdated identity framework.

Should the Act get passed, the President would need to create a new Improving Digital Identity Task Force with representatives from a number of key agencies, including the Departments of Treasury, State, and Education. It would also include additional members from the local and state government levels.

The Task Force itself would be asked to create secure digital identity guidelines for the public sector. The goal is to boost interoperability and give government agencies a way to verify digital identities while still respecting the privacy of individual civilians. That, in turn, would allow government agencies to use digital identities for a wider range of functions, as per Find Biometrics.

The bill lays out similar expectations for the NIST, which would be required to contribute to the new standards framework, and create the guide that organisations would need to follow in order to achieve compliance. The Department of Homeland Security, on the other hand, would lead a grant programme help states update their credentialing system, and be asked to publish cybersecurity directives for other federal agencies.

Spain

Signicat has acquired Spanish Electronic IDentification (eID), a leading provider of asynchronous video identification services.

With the acquisition, Signicat will strengthen its European presence. This is the second major acquisition Signicat has made this year, after buying Encap Security last month.

“Through our long cooperation, we were convinced that eID is a perfect match for us. Their unique services are a great compliment to our offering, and they bring with them a stronger foothold into the European market and competency to further fuel our growth ambitions. Together, we will solve some of the most advanced digital identity challenges for our customers,” said Asger Hattel, CEO of Signicat.

eID’s asynchronous video identification is based on video-in streaming with end-to-end coverage of the identification process. This, combined with their Qualified Electronic Signature (QES) service, generates a strong and fully digital identification flow. eID began marketing its products in 2016 and currently has a strong track record with more than 250 customers spread across 30 countries.

Philippines

Software provider AID:Tech developed digital IDs that have helped 3,000 displaced Filipinos in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur province, get faster access to financial aid from Save the Children Philippines. 

The IDs, which use blockchain technology powered by Microsoft Azure, allow for easier identification and faster aid delivery.

“The effect of the fighting here four years ago is still felt today. Until now, efforts to track down and identify everyone affected are still ongoing,” said Edwin Philip J. Horca, head of Save the Children Philippines in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), in a statement.

In 2017, Marawi City was left in ruins due to a five-month battle between local Islamic terrorist groups and government forces. As of May 2021, it had only been 65 percent rehabilitated, according to a report by Task Force Bangon Marawi. 

As for the 370,000 people that were displaced, Horca said: “One of the biggest challenges in delivering aid to the impacted people of Marawi is that many children and even their parents do not have birth certificates for identification, which in turn excludes them from social protection programs.” 

Because of these complexities, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), a partner in the government’s $408 million reconstruction and recovery programme, introduced AID:Tech’s platform to Save the Children Philippines. Beneficiaries are provided both physical ID cards with QR (quick response) codes and digital identities that organizations can verify in the process of delivery.

Microsoft Azure’s blockchain technology can track and trace donated items such as back-to-school kits and food provisions. Save the Children Philippines is also planning to work with the national and local government in BARMM to adopt the use of the digital ID system in future projects. 

India

India’s Biometric Seafarers Identity Document (BSID) has been integrated with the National Maritime Logistics Portal, which has reduced the issuance time for new digital ID cards from five or six days to one, according to the Financial Express.

The document is issued by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, and contains a chip which includes facial biometric data, and can be authenticated through public key infrastructure.

A similar credential being considered as part of the India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (IDEA) proposed in a consultation paper by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare is meeting resistance, writes The Hindu Business Line.

The idea is to create a Unique Farmer Identity (UFID) based on farmers’ Aadhaar data, but the Free Software Movement of India (FSMI), an IT advocacy group, says it is a direct violation of fundamental privacy rights.

“The usage of Aadhaar data collected for specific purposes like PM-KISAN to create UFID is a contempt of the Supreme Court orders in Aadhaar judgment,” said FSMI President Y Kiran Chandra, according to the report.

More than 99 percent of India’s adult population now holds an Aadhaar ID, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has announced, with Mint reporting that more than 1,295,000,000 digital IDs have been generated for Indians above 18 years of age. That represents a gain of nearly 40 million from a year ago, reports Biometric Update.

Sri Lanka

The Government of Sri Lanka is using MOSIP to design and develop its foundational digital ID system and prepare a national scheme for digital governance using open-source software.

This is according to an announcement from MOSIP, which says the move follows a partnership it entered into with the Government of Sri Lanka and the country’s Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA).

Since the deal was reached in October 2020, work has been ongoing and the project is now at the level of field registrations. As of April, a Proof of Concept (PoC) on an end-to-end demonstration of the digital ID system had been successfully completed, the announcement notes.

The ICTA was involved in government talks on developing a digital identity card containing biometric data last year.

MOSIP, as part of its engagement with Sri Lanka, will help the government in evaluating, customizing, and adapting the platform to its foundational digital ID requirements. The parties are confident the successful completion of the PoC will create Digital Public Goods and the enabling environment for a national digital ID rollout in Sri Lanka.

Africa

African ID verification and KYC compliance firm Smile Identity has secured $7 million in Series A funding.

The investment was co-led by Costanoa Ventures and the pan-African venture firm, CRE Venture Capital, along with participation from LocalGlobe, Intercept Ventures, Future Africa Ventures, and Angel Investors from across Africa and around the world. Existing investors, including Khosla Impact, ValueStream Ventures, Beta Ventures, 500 Startups, and Story Ventures also participated.

The round, which marks the largest investment into an identity verification company focused on Africa, brings Smile Identity’s total funding to over $11 million.

The company plans to use the new funding to improve its services, expand across more markets, add support for more ID types and hire more engineers and support staff across Africa. In conjunction with this round, John Cowgill of Costanoa, will be joining Smile Identity’s board.

Smile Identity launched in 2017 with a mission to make it easy for Africans anywhere to quickly and easily prove their identity online, while providing startups and established enterprises with the tools and software they need to automate customer onboarding, verify identities, and prevent fraud.

Africans spend an inordinate amount of time trying to prove or verify their identities in order to gain access to financial accounts, loans, SIM cards, address proofs, and social services; and an estimated 500 million Africans have no formal identification at all.