Digital IDs and the Digital Economy: the (still) missing link?

800x418_M360Bangkok_V1

Mobile 360 Series Bangkok 2018: Digital Societies (GMSA, 2018)

Sponsored content in association with GSMA

By Peter Lovelock and Laura Winwood, TRPC Pte. Ltd, a Singapore-based boutique consulting and research firm specialising in the telecommunications and ICT industries in the Asia Pacific.

One thumbprint, a couple of swipes and a few taps. That’s all it takes to reserve a restaurant, take advantage of an online sale or update friends on the day’s events. We take for granted our ability to interact and transact in the digital realm, especially that we are able to do so because we can seamlessly prove that we are who we say we are; in other words, we have a digital identity that can be authenticated which grants us access to online services, securely.

However, while many of us enjoy benefiting from the convenience of mobile apps, are we overlooking the role and importance of a digital ID as the precursor to participating in a digital economy? “Digital ID”, and indeed “the Digital Economy” are phrases so ubiquitous that most of us assume participation is readily possible for all. This, of course, is not yet the case. Instead of thinking of digital IDs as a ‘nice to have’, we need to reconsider what can happen in economies and societies where there is no easily prevalent means of acquiring an ID – let alone a digital ID – and where the vast majority are constrained by paper or more traditional means.

The potential for accelerating financial inclusion is one obvious example. Individuals cannot receive or send funds, or even start to save, without a bank account; and even in cases where individuals do have a non-digitalID, they often live too far from a physical bank to open an account. A digital ID permits the use of mobile payments on 2G phones, empowering individuals to take control of their finances, engage in e-commerce or take their businesses online and across borders.

Beyond financial inclusion the economic case for a digital ID is strong; if we consider that in a developed market such as Australia, the “economic value of an accepted digital identity” has been estimated to be US$8 billion per year1, the transformational potential of digital IDs in less well-developed economies could be staggering. Papua New Guinea provides a striking example of such potential. 80% of the country’s population of 8 million live in rural areas, which are often remote and inaccessible by road. The majority do not have access to electricity and, as of 2016, less than 12% of the population were internet users2. However, mobile phone penetration has significantly increased, from 1% in 2005 to 25% in 2011 and around 40% in 20163. Mobile phones present a powerful platform for digital inclusion, including access to online educational services, e-healthcare and e-government services to name a few.

Put simply, with the technology already largely in place throughout the Asia Pacific region digital IDs are arguably the missing link, and not an enhancement. By 2025, 73% of the regional population will be mobile subscribers4. Digital IDs can connect individuals, often inhabiting remote areas, with access to online services and platforms. Perhaps more importantly they enable civic engagement in an era of digital citizenry. Without digital-IDs, huge proportions of populations will remain cut off from the digital economy, likely leading to a further gap in wealth, education and health.

The challenge ahead

To enable such advances in the expansion of digital ID frameworks, properly designed privacy and security safeguards are necessary to gain citizens’ trust, while at the same time ensuring that the flow of data is sustained, both at the national level and across borders.

Privacy

When Cambridge Analytica allegedly accessed personal data from millions of Facebook users to target them for political campaigns, the need to act to protect data privacy became front-page news. The personal attributes collected in identity registration processes or used in identity authentication processes, represent the type of information that data protection and privacy policies, laws, and regulatory agencies need to protect – and which citizens expect them to defend. It is important that privacy and data protection rules strike the right balance between protecting consumers and encouraging the emergence of a digital society.

Cross-border data flows

Cross-border data flows have grown 45 times in volume since 2005, benefitting consumers, the economy, and society as a whole. However, some countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam have set cross-border restrictions on data delivery, storage, and processing. Countries often impose these rules believing that supervisory authorities can more easily scrutinise data that is stored locally, or that the privacy and security standards of a country can only be enforced if the data stays within that country.

A way forward is for privacy and data protection frameworks to be based on internationally recognised principles, as this can mitigate risks without restricting data flows and the benefits they bring. Such high-level alignment increases trust between countries and allows a coordinated approach.

Cybersecurity

In light of high-profile cybersecurity incidents (such as the recent hack of more than 1.5 million Singaporeans’ personal health data), a cybersecurity framework is required to instil trust among users and deter cyber criminals. While governments have a legitimate interest in ensuring cybersecurity, it is important that cybersecurity does not become an impediment to the development of a digital society.

Conclusion

There are, it needs to be recognized, many laudable initiatives into financial inclusion and social development live throughout the region. However, too often there remains an underappreciation for the potential of digital IDs, via mobile platforms, to provide a tangible and integrated solution. A further step will be for policymakers to curate digital ID frameworks that are compatible with existing regulations – or perhaps it is time to update relevant policies and implement regulations so that no one will be left behind.

For more information on the progress of digital identity in Asia, download the GSMA/TRPC publication here.

  1. A frictionless future for identity management: A practical solution for Australia’s digital identity challenge
  2. http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/papua-new-guinea/
  3. https://oxfordbusinessgroup.com/overview/competitive-bet-new-operators-and-government-reforms-are-set-transform-telecoms-industry
  4. https://www.gsma.com/mobileeconomy/asiapacific/

Join the conversation at #M360DS in Bangkok on 5-7 Sep! Register to attend at www.mobile360series.com/digital-societies .

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Access and hesitancy as major challenges surrounding covid-19 vaccination campaigns

Why climate change matters for future health professionals

UN envoy says he ‘is ready to go to Idlib’ to help ensure civilian safety amid rising fears of government offensive

MEPs back EU partnership agreement with Armenia

Can we ensure patients’ safety without taking care of healthcare workers?

George Floyd: these are the injustices that led to the protests in the United States

State aid: Commission approves €1.1 billion Polish scheme to further support companies affected by coronavirus outbreak

Climate change update: consistent global actions urgently needed as we are running out of time

Colombia’s former president says COVID-19 shows the importance of listening to indigenous peoples on how we treat the planet

Remittances could fall by $100 billion because of COVID-19 – here’s why that matters

Database of businesses linked to Israeli settlements ‘important initial step’ towards accountability: rights expert

This study wants every child in the UK to spend a night under the stars

Guinea-Bissau: Upcoming elections vital to prevent ‘relapse’ into instability, says UN envoy

Greenery: the miracle cure for urban living

Gender Equality in Medicine: are we now so different from the Middle Ages?

Sustainability, peace, security ‘best guarantee against instability’ Guterres to Security Council

To build the workforce of the future, we need to revolutionize how we learn

The International Women’s Day 2031

COP25: MEPs push for CO2 neutrality by 2050

6 ways social innovators are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus: The truth against the myths

ECB is about to lend trillions to banks

UN General Assembly celebrates 20 years of promoting a culture of peace

Except Poland, can climate change also wait until 2021 for the EU Market Stability Reserve to be launched?

A Brussels antithesis reveals where the EU is heading

UN welcomes ‘record’ Brussels conference pledge of nearly $7 billion to support Syrians

Yemen: Escalation in fighting must stop ‘before it’s too late’, Griffiths tells Security Council

14 innovative projects helping to save the planet and make the world a better place

Why flexible workspaces are the key to winning the talent war

Eurozone slowly but surely builds its Banking Union

Mountains matter, especially if you’re young, UN declares

Azeri natural gas will keep the EU warm soon

AI can help with the COVID-19 crisis – but the right human input is key

‘Do something’; UN relief chief urges Security Council action to stop the Syrian carnage unfolding ‘in front of your eyes’

JADE Spring Meeting 2017 – day 3: JADE Academy trainings, networking session and gala dinner – Excellence Awards winners revealed

Over 820 million people suffering from hunger; new UN report reveals stubborn realities of ‘immense’ global challenge

5 ways to make your organization a great sustainability partner

‘Deteriorating’ human rights in Belarus amounts to ‘wholescale oppression’: UN expert

UN chief welcomes ‘first concrete step’ in normalizing Eritrea-Ethiopia relationship

COVID-19 vaccines: MEPs call for more clarity and transparency

State aid: Commission approves a Polish scheme to compensate large companies for damages suffered due to coronavirus outbreak and provide liquidity support

UN Convention that promotes mediation to resolve trade disputes moves closer to entry into force

More women in Latin America are working, but gender gap persists, new UN figures show

Good grub: why we might be eating insects soon

EUREKA @ European Business Summit 2014: A European patent system can help European businesses lead industrial research and innovation on a global scale

Terrorism ‘spreading and destabilizing’ entire regions, Guterres warns States, at key Kenya conference

Further reforms in France can drive growth, improve public finances and boost social cohesion

All for equality – 2020 is a pivotal year for Gender Equality

Questions and answers: Commission proposes SURE, a new temporary instrument worth up to €100 billion to help protect jobs and people in work

It’s getting harder to move data abroad. Here’s why it matters and what we can do

Parliament demands ban on neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups in the EU

EU farm policy reform: Council must be more flexible – we cannot waste more time

Coronavirus is creating retirement insecurity. These 10 steps can diffuse the timebomb of an ageing population

London wants new skyscrapers to protect cyclists from wind tunnels

EU ready to relinquish its internal tax havens

One Day in Beijing

The US reject EU proposal for prudential financial controls

Industrial producer prices on free fall and stagnant output

China by numbers: 10 facts to help you understand the superpower today

Car-free day – and the other 364 days of the year

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s