10 years of eID: Portugal's citizen card


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Last updated 1 December 2017

A new national ID card scheme​

The first pilot phase of the Portuguese citizen card also know as Cartão de Cidadão started February 14, 2007 in the Azores region. 

 
Full roll-out started in 2008. 

 
In 2014, all Portuguese citizens have their new national identity card in hand replacing the old paper-based document.
​The goal of issuing an e-ID card was to revolutionize the way in which Portuguese citizens interact with the government. 

 

First, sim​plification.

​Replacing 5 cards

The card replaces 5 different physical ID documents :
  1. Civil identification card - the former paper-based ID
  2. Taxation card
  3. Voting card
  4. Social security card
  5. Healthcare card.

​The new citizen card known as Cartão do Cidadão or citizen's card ​​enables individuals to identify themselves in front of officials. 

Then, a new di​mension.

A new eID card for online authentication

​The second goal is to use the card as a brand new tool for electronic signature and online authentication fostering the development of electronic transactions and giving citizens peace of mind in the digital age.

​To identify and authenticate themselves, cardholders enter a secret pin code and the card then generates a digital signature for secure declarations and eadministrative procedures. 

This application provides the required cryptographic means for secure access to e-government services portal. 

 As the Portuguese constitution forbids a single central database for names, several identifiers can be found on the citizen card, at the front and back of the card (Civil ID number, social security number, tax number, healthcare user number).

Numerous public services are now available online and procedures that would have taken hours (obtaining civil records/birth certificates, Social Security declaration, etc) now take a matter of seconds.
As of 2014, over 45% of card holders have activated their digital certificates.​

 
This project is also supported by actions such as a very active website www.cartaodecidadao.pt

 

Th​​ere's more.

Biometric authenticatio​n

​The national identity card support biometric authentication, when necessary, as fingerprints are safely stored in the microprocessor of the card. The match on card mechanism allows biometric authentication without any central biometric database. This is stricly forbidden in Portugal.

 
​Biometric credentials never leave the smart card, meaning that they remain protected at all times. 
It is the card's processor which carries out the check and answers yes or no to the question: does the fingerprint presented correspond to the one stored in the card?

 

A strong partnership

For INCM (Imprensa Nacional Casa da Moeda SA), the Portuguese National Printing Office, it was another opportunity to further enhance their unique expertise after the electronic passport project.​

In 2006, INCM selected Gemalto as prime contractor to provide the digital security solution for the national eID card (Sealys eID), including the secure operating system, the personalization system (Coesys Issuance solution) as well as the applications, the middleware and associated helpdesk services with Zetes Burótica, the Portuguese subsidiary of Belgian Zetes Industries.

The Portuguese government selected a secure identification document, based on identification, authentication and signature (IAS) specifications – the first in Europe.​

State modernization in Portugal

​Portugal is a fascinating case in point.

When Portugal decided a few years ago to speed up the implementation of its e-Government plan and to drastically cut bureaucracy, its aim was to transform the public sector into a collaborative, inclusive body, and place Portugal as one of the leaders in terms of service quality for citizens and companies.

The goals of a more citizen-centric society has rarely been asserted with such strength from the outset, with such a comprehensive understanding of the issues.

At the beginning of the last decade, Portugal was still an extremely centralized country, with rifts between local and central authorities which were difficult to bridge. The internet had made massive inroads with the country's elite, but few citizens were making the effort to access the internet or online services. 

So the challenge to modernize the state using digital means, and bringing citizens and public authorities closer together through digital communication channels, strengthening social cohesion, seemed an insurmountable one. It seemed that the country would have to wait for the change to be made by the next generation, more up-to-date on new communication methods.

Bold statements

Yet, Portugal made the following bold commitments:

  • Administrative bodies are too partitioned? Cross-functionality will be a priority.
  • The general public are very wary of change? The benefits of this change will initially be concrete and visible, before being transferred to the digital environment.
  • Back offices set too many constraints and impair the service quality of public authorities? The new organization will be completely rebuilt based around citizens' needs, pushing the citzen-centric eGovernment vision as far as possible without impairing administrative efficiency.​

​​Simplex and Simplex+ modernization programs

​​Simplex

Between 2006 and 2011, more than 1000 measures of administrative and legislative simplification and e-government were successfully implemented in the so-called Simplex program, the name of the state modernization initiative.

2 examples:

  • the Citizen Card launched 10 years ago  replacing 5 documents
  • the Citizen Shop providing a one stop shop for public administration and many private services as well.

Overall they had a very positive impact on the lives of citizens and businesses and reduced administrative costs. The execution rate of the program was always in excess of 80%.

Some of the program's measures were singled out and obtained international awards, both from the United Nations and the European commission.  Simplex is associated to positive changes and to cutting red tape in public services.

Simplex+

SIMPLEX +, the new program, has a cross-cutting nature, covering all the domains where the state is actively present. It has also preserved its common approach to the various aspects of simplification, but it addresses new challenges in a new era.

Simplex+ is also remarkable in many respects.

  • First, it is more participatory, co-produced and done with full transparency and accountability.
  • It's stimulating innovation - to invite innovators to look at central administration. a 'startup simplex' competition was launched in 20117. It's aimed at rewarding innovative ideas for products and services that will simplify the interactions of citizens and businesses with public services.
  • Finally, the Simplex program take the drive towards simplification beyond the boundaries of public services by including measures such as the "simpler opening of a bank account" that require a collaboration between the public and private sectors.

Drawing lessons from the Portuguese experience

At a time when secure digital identity is considered as a key for digital service uptake and digital dividends​, it is worth drawing lessons from the Portuguese experience:​

  • Permanence – successful transformation and uptake of the new system are built on unchanging fundamentals and it all takes time.
  • Guidance -If things are changing, however, change need to be explained. Guidance will need to be offered, and it will be important to ensure positive feedback in order to foster peoples' trust.   
  • Next, it's important to provide something highly visible – like citizen shops and citizen cards– to encourage uptake before going virtual. This is especially true in areas where digital technology hasn't yet reached enough people. ​                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        


 


 

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