Digital identity trends – 5 forces that are shaping 2017

​​​​​​​​​​ Digital ID trends Last updated 10 August 2017​

Digital identity is well and truly established as one of the most significant technology trends on the planet.

Indeed, for a growing number of public stakeholders and citizens, it's already a day-to-day reality. As a result, a revolution in the way that individuals interact with public institutions is underway. And the private sector is fast getting in on the act too.

In this dossier, we'll highlight the five key digital identity trends that are set to shape the landscape in 2017.

But first, let's look back at some of the landmarks of 2016.​

Digital ID milestones for 2016

Before we look to the future, let's review the big ideas that gained traction in 2016. This will provide some reliable indicators as to where we are heading in 2017 - and beyond.

National ID schemes increased in number, visibility and reach

  • The UN and World Bank ID4D initiatives set a goal of providing everyone on the planet with a legal ID by 2030.
  • Numerous new national eID programs (including card and/or mobile-based schemes) were launched or initiated. Examples include new schemes in Algeria, Cameroon, Jordan, Italy, Senegal and Thailand, major announcements in the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Norway, Liberia, Poland, Jamaica and Sri Lanka, and a pilot scheme in Myanmar. Most of these programs now include biometrics, the majority in the form of fingerprints.
  • Schemes such as the Gov.UK Verify initiative were also introduced in 2016, and Australia announced that the first phase of its digital identity program will be launched by August 2017.
  • Aadhaar crossed the 1 billion users mark​ in 2016. Overall, 1B Indian residents got their Aadhaar ID, a digital identity that can be obtained based on their biometric and demographic data.​
  • New technologies and regulations supporting the digital transformation ahead

  • Digital driver's license projects (also known as mobile driver's licenses) gathered momentum in countries including the USA, UK, Australia and the Netherlands.
  • Early tests of blockchain technologies took place: in Estonia, to aid development of a ground-breaking transnational e-residency program; in the UK, to see how it can be used to help make efficient welfare payments to citizens.
  • Smart borders/smart airports emerged at a faster pace. Combined with the 700 million plus ePassports now in circulation, and a strong push behind biometrics (particularly face recognition), they offered travelers a taste of cross-border movement that is as secure as it is swift and seamless.
  • The European Union's Electronic Identification and Signature (eIDAS) regulation came into force in July 2016, requiring mandatory cross border recognition of eID by September 2018.

New standards emerged, fostering compatibility and interoperability

  • A new ICAO working group on digital travel credentials was created, led by Australia.
  • The LDS2 conception phase – 'the future of the ePassport' - was undertaken by the ICAO NTWG Logical Data Structure 2 Sub-Group.
  • The ISO SC17 WG10 - Task Force 14 "Mobile Driving Licence" started to work on  verification standards for Mobile DL and defined the scope of off-line verification. 2017 will see draft specs of both off-line and on-line verification appear for a new work item.
  • The IATA mobile ID working group was constituted in 2016, and is starting in 2017.
  • The US Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) awarded a federal grant to further support development of trusted identities, based on the Digital driver's license.

digital identity trends 5 forces

Digital identity - 5 forces that shape 2017

​To start with, don't expect any slow down in the momentum we've experienced over the last year.

2017 will see some of the most accelerated evolutionary changes experienced so far by public stakeholders and their partners in the field of secure digital identity.

In particular, we think that these changes represent essential considerations for authorities that want to make digital identity and on-line services (particularly mobile services) defining features of their modernization processes in the years to come.

We expect to see:

  1. More mobility
  2. Greater demand for security and trust
  3. An accelerating shift towards smart cities
  4. More calls for public supervision of digital identification systems
  5. Even more National ID card and eID programs​, national ID ​​initiatives  and implementations 

Let's dig in.

#1 Mobile communication dominates

ID will become ever more mobile in 2017. Of course it doesn't take an expert to recognize we've entered an era in which mobile connectivity dominates. But it's worth emphasizing that the trend shows no sign of abating. And the implications for digital ID are profound.  

Look at some of the facts:

  • 75% of internet use in 2017 will be mobile according to Zenith's new Mobile Forecast report
  • Google – a company that knows a thing or two about the future of technology - is  steadily moving towards a mobile-only world.

The lesson for all digital ID stakeholders is clear: prepare for mobile-first solutions.

#2 Guaranteed security: Private data, public framework

We'll expect nothing less in 2017. Identity is the link that connects an individual to his or her community. For public authorities, the key challenge in 2017 will be to create harmonious digital bonds that secure the relationship between new mobile identities and wider society.

This is only possible through a public framework of trust, built on guarantees of private data protection and security.

In 2017 we'll see once again that measures taken to bolster security and combat fraud are generally well accepted by citizens. These are, of course, sovereign matters par excellence.

These predictions are confirmed by what we discovered about expectations for mobile security, in interviews conducted with 1300 citizens in November 2016.

Further support is provided by O2, one of the UK's leading mobile communications companies, which confidently predicts that "security will have the final word in all things mobile in 2017."

In 2017, robust security measures will be the obvious response to new demands for trust in all exchanges between citizens and public authorities. 

Take a look at these key takeaways:

  • Citizens are prepared, willing and waiting for greater security.
  • 2017 represents a perfect opportunity for public authorities to revitalize the 'sovereign bond' with citizens. In doing so, they can prove it is not some obscure relic of the past, but a symbolic, identity-rich vehicle for collective trust.

#3 The smart city will become our playground

Around the world, the shift of populations to urban environments is already one of the defining trends of the 21st century. Inevitably, technological developments are becoming inextricably linked with this mass migration. The digital or smart city​ is becoming the model that ensures consistency in all the links between urbanites, their wider communities and public authorities. This includes, of course, eGoverment and/or mGovernment, within which digital identity is the key that unlocks the individual's access to a rich array of services and support.

Or, to put it another way, the smart city is set to become our new playground. 

By their very nature, smart cities are mobile environments. Digital ID will therefore represent the 'virtual umbilical cord' that continuously links each individual to their public and social life.

In 2017, the message for public authorities is clear: national digital ID creates an unrivalled opportunity for local creativity.  ​

So here's another key takeaway

  • Think national, act local. In a mobile-only world, local services become even more relevant.


Digital ID in 2017 

#4 Public supervision will be critical to sustain growth in the digital economy

Faced with an increasingly challenging economic landscape, governments are inevitably searching for new opportunities for sustainable, harmonious growth.

As regulatory environments take shape, close collaboration between the financial world, central and local public authorities and digital communications operators will support effective solutions and implementation of best practices.

Of course, the real source of new business opportunities is not digital identity itself, but the myriad of applications it enables. This is where banks and other operators will see a bottom line return on their investment.

As already outlined, the march of digital ID is well underway. In 2017, the focus will therefore be on the adoption of the new structures and regulations that are needed to govern the associated services and transactions.

So what does this mean in practice?

The role of public authorities in 2017 will be to:

  • Build and nurture national momentum.
  • Support and coordinate local government investments through which local transformations, close to the community, can operate effectively and efficiently.
  • Make sure that these multiple local initiatives create a coherent and interoperable spectrum of solutions: wherever they may be, mobile citizens will need to find similar modes of service.

In the year ahead, the market will follow these initiatives.

How can we be so sure?

Because evidence of uptake of digital ID and associated services is multiplying. Giving us the clearest signals since the concept was first introduced some fifteen years ago that a tipping point has been reached.

#5 Three-stage dynamics will drive pilots and roll-outs

The digital ID evolution – as broad as it is dynamic - will continue to move forward. The citizen is the fundamental driver of these changes.

Millennials now make up a majority of employees and a growing proportion of total citizen populations. They are reshaping the culture of our institutions. Ultimately, this tech-savvy generation is being proved right. The older generations, by finally joining in and adopting these forms of technology, can break out of their isolation, stay in contact, and preserve social and especially family bonds. 

For 2017, we see equally strong dynamics across the following three stages:

  • From theory to proof-of-concept: 2017 will be the year of proof-of-concept for the blockchain in public services - specifically in areas such as e-government and health care. Questions are still open on the real interest of this technology for digital identity.
  • From proof-of-concept to pilot: As it moves from a proof-of-concept technology into secure and interoperable solutions with new  standards, 2017 will be the "year of the pilot" for digital driver's licenses, digital credentials on mobile, and virtual/digital  and cloud passports.
  • From pilot to implementation: Countries will move more quickly than expected, and we could reach a tipping point over the next 12 months. Many national ID schemes are approaching critical mass.

​Now it's your turn

2017 holds many changes in store. Certainly we can't claim to predict all the important issues and topics that will emerge in the year to come. Can you fill in some of the gaps?

If you've something to say on 2017, a question to ask, or have simply found this article useful, please leave a comment in the box below. We'd also welcome any suggestions on how it could be improved, or proposals for future articles.

We look forward to hearing from you.