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Mind the Issuance Service Gap With Digital Issuance

Ask anyone for their first impressions about visiting London, and they might tell you about the London Underground train network, or “The Tube” as the locals call it. The route map for this network is a national icon, recognized by many people long before they reach London. It is symbolic of a transport logic and an underground world concealing more than one hundred and fifty years of engineering progress and technology. Two million people use the tube every weekday, mostly without service problems. As a useful underground network, it is also popular with rats, some of them quite large — why rats matter to this blog will be clear shortly.

blue digital ID issuance graphic

A little deeper into your conversation about the underground experience, something will come up that everyone seems to remember. Three short words: “Mind the gap!” It is an odd phrase, but it so familiar to Londoners that it is just another way of saying “take care.”

The Real Threats Today Are to the Gaps in the Issuance Systems, not the Documents

The world of security document issuance has a history probably a bit older than the London Underground. It certainly has a long engineering pedigree and a mature innovation tradition — just think of lasers and holograms and all the cryptography on chips. In recent years, the big threats have not been to the documents, but to the gaps in the issuance systems. These gaps are where the rats — sometimes called ID fraudsters — sneak into the system to steal the identity cheese. These gaps are where the citizen identity journey falls into a hole between the platform and the train.

An ID System Can Be Secured with Biometrics and Biography

Fixing this is a complex engineering task. The final solution has several parts. Biometrics are one — these can be used to ensure that a physical identity is only registered once in an ID system. Birth and death registration also play a part, where civil registration and vital statistics systems support trusted national identity registers for checking identities. Another gap is biography — the proof of an identity that is relevant to the issuance requirements. To get a passport, you might need to show that you are both unique and alive, but also that you have the right to travel. Biography, sometimes described as personal attributes, solves this part.

But A New Gap Problem is Arising

So that seems to solve the gap problem, or does it? In principle, yes. Yet something is missing ― something new. As we invest in better use of biometrics, improved implementation and connectivity to civil registers, and more verifiable personal information, then we are at the same time investing more into public service systems; we are creating a new type of gap problem. Delivering all these safeguards through a world of service means that citizens expect more of issuers as service providers. Part of the return on investment for the cost of these new identity services is that citizens want experiences to be more user friendly, and they want easier access to more services.

Governments Should Invest More In Online Services for Their Citizens

For their part, governments want to offer more services online, and to create new use cases such as document renewal as an online service. The effects of the current health crisis will only accelerate this trend. For this to happen, governments should think ahead a little, to anticipate that citizens will come back to reuse their online services ― and understand that there is a little investment in the first set of know your citizen processes. An investment that is worth it.

The Citizen Becomes The Customer Of the State

If issuers want this to be a productive relationship — one with the citizen as customer — then they need to think more like the banks and provide their document holders with the additional means to authenticate digitally. Returning customers can then enter the issuer’s service system and access more useful services. The HID approach is to enable issuance and management of different credential types — physical and digital. The result is a better equipped citizen, more trust across the issuers’ service systems, and fewer service and security gaps where the rats can get into the system.

To learn more on the threats ID systems face today read more in our whitepaper.

Calum Bunney is Systems Product Director at HID Global Citizen ID.