Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Privacy and inclusion key to successful national Digital Identity rollout


By Patrick Kouwenhoven, Country Manager New Zealand, Infosys

New Zealand’s first ever Minister for the Digital Economy, David Clark, has publicly put forward that digital transformation is a key ingredient of the country’s economic future – and the first step is the creation of a national Digital Identity system.

A single identity platform across the public and private sector would enhance the privacy and security of online transactions, reduce administration burdens for businesses, and support individuals in job applications and public-sector engagement.

A self-sovereign digital identity is key, with users able to determine what data will be shared between departments and other organisations, contributing to overall digital confidence.

But digital identities have been met with controversy across the world due to privacy and data-sharing concerns, forcing some countries to scrap their plans time and time again.

So how can New Zealand work towards a successful rollout of this citizen centric digital identity program?

New Zealanders want a National Digital Identity, but on their own terms.

New Zealanders undeniably have a strong appetite for a streamlined digital identity.

They overwhelmingly want a seat at the table when it comes to the future of digital government services, the latest Infosys survey of 1000 New Zealanders reveals. Since the pandemic, about 80% of respondents leveraged online government services – and the majority (74%) don’t ever want to return to physical centres.

About half (49%) also want a single sign-in across multiple government platforms, potentially in the form of a digital ID.

Online engagement is at an all-time high and 70% of citizens say they are comfortable sharing personal information online if they know how it would be stored and used in the future. However, 44% are still calling for better security measures to protect personal information.

There’s also still about 1 in 10 who would rather not share personal data at all, due to concerns that online security systems are vulnerable to weaknesses and breaches.

It’s clear that New Zealand’s digital identity plans are more likely to succeed if citizen consent and autonomy is made a priority.

Inclusivity key to achieving engagement and trust

New Zealand has already taken progressive positive step forward by developing a Digital Identity Trust Framework Bill, outlining how digital IDs will be accredited, legally enforced and governed.

It was crafted with eight progressive key considerations: people-centred, inclusive, secure, privacy-enabling, enabling Te Ao Maori approaches to identity, sustainable, interoperable, transparent.

New Zealanders seem to agree the guiding value of inclusivity is crucial to platform development.

In our survey, the vast majority believe digital services need to better include people with a disability (85%) and those with low digital skills (81%).

Almost half of all respondents (48%) also want government websites to look and feel more like those in the private sector, while 42% want universities to contribute to the enhancement of digital experiences.

By gathering feedback from communities of various abilities, cultures and languages, digital barriers can be broken down and innovative new design solutions can be found.

If a citizen-centric digital identity program can address existing gaps in skills and accessibility, there’s a far greater chance of its ultimate success.

What comes next?

New Zealand’s government has realised a Digital Identity system is a logical step towards safer and simpler digital landscape that benefits individuals, the private sector and public agencies – but the data required can only be leveraged upon citizen consent.

Now is the time for policy makers to listen to citizens from all walks of life when creating a self-sovereign identity.

While there is more work to be done, simple citizen-led solutions can support digital participation for underrepresented groups and address social and economic barriers.

It’s abundantly clear that a transparent and privacy-first approach led by citizen feedback is the next step in New Zealand’s digital transformation.

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