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The future of government services: How mobile phone authentication opens a portal to innovation

With the right approach, governments can launch digital services that bring serious benefits to their citizens

Countries around the world have launched mobile digital ID programs, but many have struggled to encourage citizens to adopt and use them. The keys to successful implementation are demonstrating data security and highlighting benefits to citizens.

Expert insight: “There's a recognition now that the time has come to step up the digital and services agenda in government." 

Dr. Tony Shannon, Head of Digital Services, OGCIO Department of Public Expenditures & Reform
By the numbers*: 91% of people feel confident using devices to do things they need to do online.
62% are comfortable providing the government with data so they can deliver digital services.
52% of respondents reported that they know only a little or nothing about how data about them is used and collected in their day-to-day lives.
Willingness to share personal data with different organisations was found to have a strong relationship with the extent to which those organisations are trusted to act in one’s best interest.

For example, 74% of people reported that they generally trust health organisations like the UK's National Health Service (NHS) to act in their best interests, but only 51% were comfortable providing private companies with personal data to tailor products and services.

Mobile ID authentication opens possibilities

Imagine a future where every citizen is connected to the applications and services they need through a verified, secure mobile digital identification system. It's one in which government agencies that protect public health, deliver public assistance payments, and issue certifications and licences make services accessible to citizens across social and economic groups efficiently and at a significantly reduced cost.

Not long ago, this type of citizen-centric digital service would have been impossible. However, with data-driven modernisation strategies, government agency leaders can develop and launch a mobile digital authentication system for mobile devices that delivers benefits for citizens and organisations across service areas.

A chart that lists three benefits citizens get from a mobile digital authentication system for mobile devices and three benefits organisations get from mobile digital authentication system for mobile devices.

Barriers to adoption and use

Countries including the United Kingdom, Japan, the Netherlands and many others have launched initiatives to bring digital ID to citizens, but taking them to scale has presented a challenge to realising the goals of a more connected future.

In many cases, adoption and use has been low because people didn’t immediately see the value of having their ID on their phone, they didn’t often need to access the available applications that use their digital ID, or they had privacy concerns about sharing personal information with government mobile applications. 

Key to increasing adoption and use is establishing trust with the public, and increasing transparency around how data is captured, stored and used.

Greater interoperability creates higher value for citizens and increased adoption

One of the current realities that has limited the success of mobile identity management is the fact that often data is not shared among government organisations, but instead is siloed and separated from agency to agency. This creates additional expense and management issues for organisations, and frustrates users when they are asked to enter the same information multiple times in different systems.

When user data interoperability is increased, it can be accessed and used by multiple agencies. With a single digital ID that identifies citizens securely to multiple agencies, users can enter their information once, and get access to more, and more useful, applications. Licensing agencies have the verification they need to issue licences, voter identification and eligibility can be verified and used for online elections, and public health agencies can verify, track, and communicate with users as needed. And as the number of users and applications grows, so does the scalability of the system.

Increased acceptance of digital government programs

During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments were forced to find ways to deliver services online that had traditionally been done in person. This required fast-tracking applications that could gather personal data and store and use it securely.

In order to address public concerns about data collection and usage when developing and launching a COVID tracker app, Nearform, in partnership with the Irish government, took a strongly decentralised approach to the data gathered and used. Citizen data (for tracking interactions with COVID outbreaks) was stored locally on their handset and not identified or used centrally.

This maximised data privacy and protection. Additionally, all code written by Nearform was open source and publicly available, further supporting the goal of responsible and transparent development.

Building toward the future

A digital ID can help citizens receive secure access to government services easily and safely, and citizens are increasingly willing to share their personal data, providing they trust who they are providing it to, and believe the services are beneficial to them.

Recent experience shows that with a considered digital strategy, highly popular and useful digital products can be developed and implemented quickly, in months rather than years. This happens when applications are developed in partnership with an experienced organisation that prioritises transparency and trust, providing benefits to citizens and organisations. 

Visit Nearform for additional case studies and success stories of digital transformation by organisations in the public and private sectors.

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