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Engagement Best Practices

3 Governments Pioneering Digital Identity Authentication


PlaceSpeak has long pioneered the use of digital identity authentication for public consultation, ensuring that proponents are hearing from real, relevant people. Now, governments are starting to realize the importance of digital identity verification for online service delivery.

As people are increasingly expecting to access government services online in their own time, while ensuring the same rigour and security from an in-person experience, digital identity authentication will become the next big challenge for governments.

Processes of authenticating one’s identity — that is, proving that you are the person who you say you are — are taken for granted in the physical world. For example, people are required to show identification in order to open a bank account, vote, or board an airplane. This usually happens without much fanfare or outrage. However, concerns of security and privacy (which are not unjustified) have resulted in slow uptake online. Here are a few examples of how governments are tackling this crucial issue.

GOV.UK Verify (United Kingdom)

GOV.UK has certified a list of companies (e.g. Barclays, Royal Mail, etc.) to verify residents’ identity. The company selected will ask the user some questions or perform other checks using photo identification and financial information before confirming the user’s identity to the government. Once a resident has verified their identity, they can check their income tax for the current year, file a tax return, share driver’s licence information, and more.

How GOV.UK Verify tackles security concerns: The UK Government does not collect any personal information to verify the identity of users. Rather, it works through existing companies where people have accounts (e.g. banks). There is a double-blind process: companies don’t know which government service users are trying to access, and the government department doesn’t know which company users choose to verify their identity.

RealMe (New Zealand)

By creating a single RealMe account, residents of New Zealand can access dozens of government sites, including Passports, Work and Income and the Companies Office. Once a user has verified their identity and address, they can access a long list of services online, including opening a bank account, applying for a student loan, renewing a passport, enrolling to vote, and more.

How RealMe tackles security concerns: RealMe doesn’t store any of the verified information provided by users. Two-factor authentication is also needed for sharing verified information or accessing services which require additional security.

e-Estonia (Estonia)

Way ahead of the curve is the Republic of Estonia, where digital identity verification has been available to Estonian citizens for over a decade. This Baltic state’s revolutionary approach has allowed for online court proceedings, e-healthcare, and even online voting, amongst others.

Now, it has become the first country to offer e-Residency — a transnational digital identity available to anyone in the world interested in administering a location-independent business online. Non-citizens can establish an Estonian company online, digitally sign documents and contracts, declare Estonian taxes online, and more.


How e-Estonia tackles security concerns: Nearly 94% of Estonia’s residents have a physical Electronic ID Card, which serves as a legal identity card and digital access card for all of Estonia’s secure e-services.

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