September 16 is International Identity Day – a commemoration of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 16.9 which calls for the provision of legal identity for all by 2030.

On this day, you will see many corporations calling out their progress in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). These include their DEI mission statement, the number of Employee Resource Groups they have, the increase in diversity percentages they are aiming for in the near future and other such commitment metrics. Entrust could easily highlight all these initiatives as well. But while these efforts are extremely important, should be tracked, measured, and improved upon and is somewhat linked to the notion of “identity” – is that really the most important aspect of this day?

Around the world, according to McKinsey & Company, nearly one billion people have no form of legal ID. That means they have no birth certificate, driver’s license, National ID, or passport – no legal way to interact with their own government for services or aid. Without legal identification, millions are potentially denied access to education, financial services, health care, the recognized labor market, or even the ability to secure property. Nearly 1 in every 8 people do not legally exist in today’s world.

The Role of Government

Governments, the issuers of identity documents, have a large role to play to resolve this global inequality. Accessibility for all government services requires that one be recognized and validated as a citizen – which is not as easy as it might seem. Geographic expanse, differences in socio-economic rates within the population, aging infrastructure, lack of resources, political impacts and competing budgetary priorities can all pose a hinderance to any identity issuance initiative for a government. Multiple forms of identity for every citizen can be very complicated to manage as well.

Recently governments have been looking towards digital identity to help solve some of these challenging issues. A number of countries that have either implemented digital identity systems or are working towards that goal including EstoniaGermany, the U.K., Canada, Australia, the EU, and many more.

Compared to paper-based identity documents − digital identity can be delivered to the majority of people quickly, verified online, at a lower cost. For example, an individual could use their digital identity to register for college, pay taxes, vote, receive government benefits or access any e-government services. This also has the promise to reduce identity fraud and restrict access from ineligible recipients as verification methods are now varied, with multiple checks from several sources.

Still, to be fully inclusive for the foreseeable future, governments will be required to offer multiple channels for their citizens to obtain legal identity – from manual forms or assisted digital at brick and mortar service centers, to mail in, to (in some cases) mobile identity registration motorcades to remote areas, and to fully digital through online or mobile devices. Additionally, renewal of identity will need to have a similar choice of channels and processes to ensure access for all.

As stated, many governments have started the digital identity process, but the majority are still far from the finish line and interoperability remains limited.

The Role of the Private Sector

Commercial identity providers, such as Entrust, are required to support every method of identity issuance and verification. They also need to be on the forefront of innovative processes, technology, and implementation.

Inclusion by Design must be in every aspect of their identity strategy and portfolios including:

  • Actively pursuing a diverse and inclusive workforce, and leadership to ensure equitable and varied approaches to identity solutions.
  • Ensuring that an individual’s personal data is appropriately protected. This means handling and storing personally identifiable information (PII) in accordance with applicable privacy laws and regulations, which includes adherence to the data minimization principle (i.e., not storing more PII than is needed or for longer than it is needed).
  • Constant solution and technology analysis with a goal of serving 100% of individuals/users even if some service channels will require low or no-tech solutions to reach less well-connected segments of the population.
  • Participating in and complying with international identity standards to promote fairness and interoperability.
  • Working closely with governments to understand their specific challenges and enable smooth identity program rollouts.

International Identity Day is a chance each year to re-commit to the goal of legal identity for all. Maybe, in the not-so-distant future, if we all – Public and Private – work together, this annual reminder could become an annual celebration.

To learn more about International Identity Day, check out the official website: https://www.id-day.org/.

To learn more about how Entrust enables strong identities, visit https://www.entrust.com/identities-payments-data-protection#strong-identities.