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Digital dividends: reaping more with digital identity schemes

How can your citizens, public and private organizations reap the digital dividends faster? 

In this web dossier, we would like to share some of the best practices we've gathered from around the world and the 40 eID initiatives we are contributing to.​

​​​​​​​​It's no easy task to set up a national digital identity scheme, launch eGovernme​nt services AND get your citizens on board. Citizen's uptake is certainly the most important part of your eGovernment program as it determines its success at the end of the day.

Why not leverage your digital ID program on tactics that are already proven to work? 

Digital Dividends

Digital identity to boost economic growth 

The digital revolution is impacting all sectors of society. The most visible change is the growing multi-channel access to online services, whether via the internet or mobile apps. As our lives shift towards the digital space, most countries are finding it important to maintain continuity in the way society is organized, improve economic mechanisms and develop services to citizens. 

  • For citizens, managing health, organizing children's education, taking out a loan (or investing savings), signing a rental contract or exercising civil rights are significant acts of responsibility that can be managed in the digital space, as long as this can be done with confidence and peace of mind with regard to their validity.
  • For companies, whether large or small, their role as economic stakeholders, together with their legal liability for their business, means they need to make sure their new digitally-acquired agility remains securely rooted. They can improve customer service while safeguarding contractual commitments. 
  • For public administrations, the challenge of greater flexibility in public services thanks to the all-digital transition and the need to better understand user needs are combined together.


  Here too, the task is on government services to be reliable, to protect public interests and the safety   of   people and property. 

Now, this view, shared by an increasing number of countries, has the advantage of promoting the conditions for digital development centered on people and their changing usage habits. 

It is based on two pillars: 

  1. ​​​trust services and, above all, 
  2. ​digital identity. 

​    60 countries have made the leap to digital identity and are engaged into a national eID scheme​*. 

They are seeking to boost efficiency, economic development and inclusion with the ultimate aim of better serving their citizens in a reliable, secure and transparent way. 

  • They are looking for the digital dividends, the benefits from using these secure digitization technologies: growth, jobs and services. 
  • They deploy national ident​ity trust systems* not only to rationalize services and processes in areas such as social services, taxes, local voting and administration, but also to promote private services by stimulating the digital economy, all while reducing costs. 

* A national identity scheme or digital identity system sets out the roles of the sovereign state with regard to digital identity. It also establishes the underlying principles and workings of the digital identity ecosystem. 

eGovernment services

1/3 less queues in hospitals

One of the most advanced countries in Europe, Estonia has since 1992 banked on the information society to ensure growth and competitive development. This laboratory of "the digital society" has become the global benchmark for national digital identity programs and related e-government programs.

It reasonably foreshadows what a country can expect on a scale of 5 to 7 years.​The country largely communicates on its positive results in this area. A striking figure summarizes in particular the impact of the use of electronic signatures in the country.

Former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves explained in 2016​:

 the use of electronic signatures in the country saves the equivalent of one working week for all of the working population… the size of the budget of National Defense (2% of GDP).

"What you can expect: convenience & effficiency"

(Source e-Estonia, April 2016)

More globally, the World Development Report issued by the World Bank in May 2016 provides extensive information on the digital dividends and answers two main questions:​ 

  1. Why should authorities focus on promoting digital technologies, and 
  2. How to achieve the digital dividends. 

Countries that succeed with their national eID program​ launch do two things very well: 

    First they implement a service approach to win citizen's acceptance 

    Second, they explain, express and demonstrate a strong political will to change

​​​​Here are examples from our best case studies: 

Digital Government and digital ID best practices

By reviewing most successful national electronic identity schemes and their related eGovernment programs, it is possible to identify the best practices that together make up an 'ideal' launch strategy:  

For the individual/citizen: a service approach 

In order to mobilize users, the government needs to give a clear and confident lead on the benefits to be derived from the implementation of e-ID. Above all else, e-ID must be sold to citizens as a useful facility that will make their lives easier.

The uptake of new use cases is first and foremost dependent on the value of the application.

The leading eGov applications are:

1. Social and healthcare: family, employment, health, retirement, health insurance via local offices or unions, protection, social security provisions etc.
2. Finances: tax, for ATMs as well as online banking in many countries 
3. Housing: construction permits, certificates, authorizations, change of address.
4. Education and children's activities. 

A second raft of applications includes: 

5. Leisure and other public services; transport accounts for many of these.
6. Citizenship and involvement in political life: at city, commune, regional and national level.

The service must come to the user and not vice versa. It should be personalized.

When people log in they are recognized, and their personal history of dealings with the government is instantly recalled. 

The countries that have approached projects from this perspective are now enjoying the highest rates of success. 

The best part? ​Apply marketing techniques step by step. 

A marketing approach to win citizen's acceptance

Positioning a national eID scheme

Positioning must be considered carefully. 

Another success story is the uptake of the eID system in Austria. Identity and traceability are very sensitive issues in the country. 

The government had to show that this national identity card was created by citizens, for citizens. 

The Chancellery declared it would guarantee citizens were protected, and that it would carry out the wishes of the general public. 

This is the approach adopted in Portugal and Germany​ as well. The "citizen card" has made it possible to better express the public will and put citizens at the heart of the entire e-Government 2.0 program. 

Malaysian biometric ​Mykad introduced in 2001 was presented that way and a proof of Malaysia's modernity. The government multi-purpose smart ID card is a proof of citizenship but also serves as a driving license, an ATM card, an electronic purse, and an e-signature tool. 

For example, Touch ‘n Go, the electronic purse app, uses contactless technology. Payment is quick and easy for
highway toll plazas, public transport such as light rail transit (LRT), RapidKL, car parks and theme parks.


Segmenting services can improve inclusion (e.g. Kids-ID in Belgium, senior service cards in some French towns, educational electronic tokens in some German municipalities).

Profiling studies in Belgium​ (University of Ghent and Fedict 2008/2010) also highlight specific, homogeneous user groups (single-parent families, senior citizens, jobseekers, students, etc) for whom customized solutions could be created. 

These represent excellent opportunities to create fine-tuned eGov services that are more inclusive and secure. 


Services should be promoted via organized communication, in just the same way that modern private sector service providers manage their customer relations. Unfortunately, communication is usually neglected in e-Government policies. However, it should be considered a priority; a major transformation of the relationship between individuals and institutions is taking place through the administrative system that manages public services.


Education should be organized and facilitated

For example, in Estonia, e-Government is currently included in the civic education of young people. ​​Of course, the government is also being modernized for its own sake as well as for the efficiency of the service it provides, but the effort to convince citizens and develop loyalty will continue for at least another five to ten years. T​he digital revolution is taking time to reach eahc and every one of us.

That's not all.

For example, the Belgian Federal Government has provided a considerable number of new e-services, allowing the e-ID card to be used to carry out various transactions.

Communications were improved in 2009, via a website and a large number of local advertising campaigns. The aim is to reach out to citizens (with the "My eID" bus, for example), and teach them to use the services, rather than waiting for them to discover them by accident. 

The launch of a private sector e-service without appropriate media communications would be unthinkable.

Belgian national eID Scheme

Source: police on web
"Police on web" is one of 700 applications which use online identification in Belgium. Bike theft? Graffiti? Going on holiday? Report it all directly on the internet! Since 100% of the Belgian population have eID cards, all citizens can report thefts over the internet. This application is part of the measures to streamline administrative procedures. 

We consider communications based on technicalities to be counterproductive.​ That may sound intuitive. But we saw a lot of countries communicate on these aspects that they THINK will do well.


Technology and innovation will not motivate users

The State's back office must be hidden from view. When we order a car, the manufacturer does not tell us about the difficulty involved in transferring parts from one production center to another. This is standard practice, and the same approach should apply to government bodies and digital governance.


Complexity should be masked

The governance organization for the identification system, its principal identities, secondary identities, authentication servers, the control and validation system and associated expertise should stay in the backstage where it belongs.​


Egovernment best pratices  
Communicating on the legal validity of the system and the extraordinary security effort implemented only generates mistrust, spreading the idea that if such technological issues persist, the system is still immature. .



Pricing must be realistic.
 Price elasticity has an effect on public services, particularly if online access is not mandatory and substitutions are possible (price of the card, subscription, after-sales, development kits).
In Belgium and Portugal, the price of the card itself was set by taking into account the experiences of other countries (e.g. Finland, Sweden). For example, it was simply not acceptable for a Belgian family to pay 35 to 45 Euros per card and per person. The price of the Belgian Identity Card varies, but is within a price range of 3 to 17 Euros. Furthermore, the child protection service linked to the Belgian Kids-ID card, which was originally intended to be a paying service, was ultimately provided free of charge in 2010. ​​​​​​ 

Digital government strategies

A strong political will is important. 

Austria's and Estonia's digital government approaches are particularly interesting in this regard.  

As in Estonia, Austrian public authorities first imposed on themselves the rules they wanted to apply to society as a whole. Initial legal proceedings, the law-drafting process, and then all governmental procedures were brought in line with the program for a paperless government. Austria's approach has been very similar to that of Estonia. 

Austria also set itself the challenge of creating a modern communications framework for companies, and a very advantageous competitive environment to attract businesses and promote socio-economic growth in the country. 

In 2003, Hong Kong followed the example set by Finland, Brunei, Malaysia and Macao, and started its own national identity card program. 

The success of Hong Kong's new identity card is due in part to a strong and constant political will, and solid technical and legal infrastructures. 

Furthermore, the document is visibly more modern and secure than its predecessor, providing a boost to national pride.There has also been a clear perception since launch that the card would protect the rights of its citizens and their uniqueness.​​​​ The installation of self-service terminals and integration in libraries, online betting, and more "classic" examples of Hong-Kong e-Government​ such as e-tax, have also encouraged adoption. 

​South Africa is another example of supporting transformation leveraging strong national symbols and values. The country is a young multi-ethnic democracy. The authorities understood that a new identity scheme could also be an opportunity to strengthen the nation's development goals as a new symbol of unity and pride for all citizens. 

Launched in mid-2013 and replacing the history-laden green book, the new biometric smart ID card was indeed presented as part of the national effort to reinstall the identity, general citizenship and dignity of the people. 

The first smart ID cards were issued to the 'Mandela Generation' - and former president Mandela himself - giving priority to those veterans, whom the country wished to honor. The video clearly reflects the will of the authorities to make the launch an historical moment. 

India's digital ID number named Aahdaar has become a symbol of digital transformation and empowerment. The Indian authorities have always shown  strong support to the project.

Aahdaar started in 2009 and today over 1,2B residents have been registered. Each resident is issued with their own, unique 12-digit Aadhaar number. This unique digital identity number can use to "authenticate".So in India, the ID is not a card, it's the number. It's purely digital and hence verifiable online. 

The primary goals were to aid the efficient management of public subsidies and unemployment benefit schemes. Adhaar offers vast potential to extend social inclusion, whilst simultaneously strengthening the country's defenses against modern threats such as corruption, cyber-crime, and identity theft.​

Adapting the legal and regulatory framework 

The legal and regulatory framework beyond the strict authorization needed to proceed via digital channels should be addressed from a global perspective, encapsulating the complete e-Government program.  

The aim is to produce a legal basis for all of the rules establishing the "framework of trust".  It is operative once it ensures the continuity of rights in all circumstances and all communication channels with the same legal security, specifying in particular:

  • the validity of written documents, contracts and digital exchanges
  • digital identification and electrical signature in compliance with international standards
  • rules governing citizens' electronic relationship with respect to public services and e-commerce
  • the definition of Private Data for each citizen and the rules to ensure its protection
  • the rules governing digital management of the civil register, national identification number, including, for those countries that have opted for it, the rules of use for associated  biometric databases

eGovernment in Algeria  

In Algeria, the 2010 law on the implementation of the unique National Identification Number (numéro d'identification nationale) and the February 2015 law on legally binding electronic signature and certification marked two major milestones in the advancement of a national eID framework for eCommerce and eGovernment. 

The national biometric eID card was officially launched early 2016. 

In the Belgian e-Government program, access to the "Mondossier", or "Myfile" application is a right offered to Belgian citizens when they are issued their e-ID Card. In their "Myfile" file, for six months a Belgian citizen can consult all transactions performed by State administrative employees who have accessed files using his/her civil register data notarized in the National Population Register - with the exception of exchanges relating to State security (Justice and National Safety). 

The application comprises an on-line form enabling the citizen to request an official explanation from the government body that accessed his/her Private Data. 

The following information appears on the screen: date and time of consultation; the name of the person who consulted this data, if the consultation was performed via identification with an electronic card; the code of the organization that performed the consultation, as attributed by the National Institute of Statistics or by the National Register, and lastly, the name of the organization that performed the consultation. 

Internet access for all (including offers for equipment grants) is another significant factor in e-inclusion. It should be noted that Estonia has included the right to free Internet access in its Constitution. 

Adapting the organization to harness the digital revolution

Inter-ministerial coordination is a valuable asset. 

Often this is done under the auspices of the Prime Minister (or sometimes the Finance Minister), who strategically manages the State's modernization procedure. Countries that have set up this level of coordination have shown greater agility in moving forward: e.g. the Belgian Fedict and Portuguese AMA, but also the Emirati EIDA (Emirates Identity Authority) or the French organizations of direction interministérielle de la transformation publique (DITP) and direction interministérielle du numérique et du système d’information et de communication de l’Etat (DINSIC) created in November 2017. 

Kuwait's PACI with its Civil ID initiative is another example of cross coordination.

A technical or operational inter-ministerial committee for the "Modernization of Public Services" offers clear benefits. An inter-ministerial technical platform will provide an important link between the various ministries, offering assistance to the different public services concerned, covering in particular the IT operation for the creation, distribution and inspection of the validity of secured documents (also see below, "Basic architecture of an e-Government system"). 

This platform is very often closely linked to the civil register, which constitutes the highest-level reference in terms of "root" identification. E.g. Belgium's inter-ministerial platform, the Estonian X-Road, or the French RIE (State inter-ministerial network) created in September 2015. 

Regional organization has played a key role in many countries

In states that sought to establish a strong association between regional and local authorities and the national e-Government procedure, a group of regional representatives has been created in which all the levels supporting the e-Government deployment are represented. 

Some countries, such as Belgium and Austria, have even established their own approach to the marketing and targeting of their services, based on this representative group. Because the engagement of the regional level to shape the digital society to come is necessary to guarantee success at a local level and secure grassroots support, it is clearly advantageous to associate them with the foundations of the program in community life. 

  • Using as many local and community-based applications as possible to promote almost daily use of trusted e-Services will also boost uptake. 
  • Cooperation between state and local authorities provides a clear, positive view of local authorities' contribution to the national effort to promote a framework of trust. 

Digital governance: adapting the processes

Unnecessary bureaucracy should be eliminated. 

Undertaking the necessary reengineering work, ensuring interoperability of processes and migrating from a paper-based to an electronic culture may represent something of a revolution, but it is a necessary transition. In Estonia, the e-tax process is now totally paperless. As early as 2007, all businesses were required to use the e-tax system exclusively, eliminating paper filing. 

Designing the eGov and mGov services, creating more citizen-centric applications, rethinking the user experience (UX) are also triggering challenging questions: do we need different data to be collected, different styles of prototyping, different design principles, and ways of structuring products or apps?

 Digital governance


Associating virtual and physical relationships – the path to e-inclusion

It is necessary to prove to the citizen that virtual interaction brings real benefits and comforts.

It is possible for digital technologies to be transformational, but for that to happen the analogue complements are necessary, as expressed in the world bank report 2016​.

Some countries have pursued this multi-channel strategy to its very limits by associating e-Government with a very dynamic local policy through:

Citizen Boutiques​ (Portugal), Public Service Houses (France, Spain), e-Government hypermarkets (Greece) and Local Service Offices (Finland).

Thus, one can prove the physical reality of a single contact point to citizens. Indeed, a relationship based on learning and trust gets off on a better footing with face-to-face contact.

Government self-service kiosks​ can also serve as a relay. 

Installed in administration buildings, malls,  they provide something visible and tangible to encourage use and uptake. These kiosks can also be attended with an assistant and it is then all the simpler for citizens and residents to transpose into e-Services the reality they are familiar with - the points of reference are thus acquired and the necessary learning has taken place.

It takes at least five years for a real cultural adaptation. Face-to-face contact and assistance are fully justified for local services, and are significant contributing factors to success. 

Partnership matters

Bringing together banks (or telecoms operators in certain countries) as partners in public sector payment applications, and including them in the 'Circle of Trust' that promotes the use of eID, authentication and eSignatures, will accelerate the implementation process. (E.g. Sweden, Finland, Norway, Estonia, Turkey).

​​​​digital revolution expected by citizens

Digital society 

To date, Gemalto is contributing to over 40 electronic identity document initiatives, 30 electronic travel document programs, 20 citizen and voter registration programs, numerous driver's license, health and social schemes worldwide. 

To promote the emergence of a freer and more sustainable society by making it more secure, Gemalto has built a structured approach and mode of contribution to government programs, sharing international experience, industrial know-how and its position as partner to public authorities in numerous countries. 

Its approach addresses three main areas:

  • Securing the identity of citizens
  • Protecting their privacy, personal data and digital rights
  • Promoting an optimal framework of trust for digital exchanges in order to create the conditions for a reliable deployment of online services. 

In the same spirit, Gemalto collaborates with its customers to analyze and promote best practices in these areas across the planet.