LEVERAGING DIGITAL IDENTITY TECHNOLOGY IN THE RESPONSE TO COVID-19

The spread of COVID-19 has resulted in unprecedented changes across the world, imposing strict social distancing and leaving millions of people with no choice but to stay at home. Governments are facing increased pressure to ensure that their citizens have access to key services such as banking, education, and healthcare.

As individuals and institutions become heavily reliant on technology (internet) to adapt their routines and processes, it has become important to find user-friendly and secure ways to authenticate and verify identities online.

This article aims to highlight ways in which digital IDs can be leveraged in the response to the pandemic.

What is a Digital ID?

For the benefit of readers who don’t know what a digital identity is and as a refresher for those who do, a digital identity is a collection of information about an individual, organization or device that exists online and is the digital equivalent of real identity documentation. However, in this article, we will primarily focus on digital identities for physical persons/individuals.

A digital identity uses technology to confirm that an individual is who they say they are. It also helps to simplify transactions between a government and its citizens in the delivery of essential public services. In business, especially in regulated sectors, a digital identity helps to confirm and verify the identity of a customer before a transaction is completed successfully or a service is rendered.

According to McKinsey, digital identities help to facilitate 6 key types of transactions between individuals and institutions:

But, what defines a good digital ID? A good digital ID can be defined as one that:

  • Is unique. An individual has only one identity within the scheme and every scheme identity corresponds to only one individual.
  • Meets the government and private-sector standards for initial registration and subsequent acceptance for multiple important civic & economic uses.
  • Is established with the individual’s consent, that is, individuals enrol for and utilize the digital ID with complete knowledge of the personal data that will be captured and how the data will be used.
  • Protects user privacy and ensures control over personal data with in-built security safeguards.

How Digital IDs Can Play a Role in the Global Response to COVID-19

‘Back in May 2019, I predicted that just over 704 million digital identity verification checks would be made during 2020 around the world. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis and with businesses increasingly reliant on ‘remote’ technology to verify identity and to quickly onboard people to digital services, I believe that this forecast needs to increase — probably by an additional 15–20 percent.’

Alan Goode, Goode Intelligence Market Research.

With governments around the world gradually lifting lockdowns so as to get their economy and the lives of their citizenry back on track, digital identity can be used to support lockdown exit strategies. Some key areas where the technology can be leveraged include:

Digital ID in Financial services

Considering the mandatory social distancing measures, businesses in this sector can leverage digital ID technology to provide digital self-service customer onboarding channels and delivery of financial services.

Digital ID in Healthcare

Accessing eHealth and video doctor consultations have become a necessity as people seek to get medical care from the comfort of their homes. Digital IDs enables patients to prove their identity and healthcare coverage entitlement remotely whilst ensuring the confidentiality of their data. In addition, digital IDs will drive improved patient management and treatment; health insurance and benefits programs & accurate data collection for planning and research.

Digital ID and e-Governance

To maintain the delivery of public services across the citizenry, governments who have not embraced digital ID schemes will have to accelerate its adoption and digitize their eGovernment services by providing digital platforms which will allow civil servants work from home, which will in turn combat/halt the spread of the virus without necessarily interrupting public service delivery. An example can be seen in Estonia, where 99% of public services are available online 24/7, meaning that access to services remains easy and fluid even during a crisis.

Digital ID in ensuring business continuity and delivery of key services

Businesses are realizing that serving customers online has become the new normal and as a result, they need to adapt quickly so as to remain in business. Digital IDs provide a means to remotely and reliably verify new and existing customers whilst delivering valuable service.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown and buttressed the importance of digital transformation and why governments, institutions, and business should re-evaluate their digital initiatives with the aim of a rapid transition in order to survive not only the crisis caused by the pandemic but also a world post-COVID-19.


Written by: Oluwatosin Onaneye (Business Growth & Partnerships Executive, Seamfix).

References

[Infographic: What is a good digital ID? | McKinsey](https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/mckinsey-digital/our-insights/infographic-what-is-good-digital-id)

https://dis-blog.thalesgroup.com/government/2020/04/20/why-digital-ids-have-never-been-so-relevant

[Digital ID in Lockdown: What role can Digital Identity play in the world’s COVID-19 response? : (https://iseepr.co.uk/digital-id-in-lockdown-what-role-can-digital-identity-play-in-the-worlds-covid-19-response/)

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