Adoption of technology has sped up drastically as a result of the pandemic and we’re seeing this now influence how governments are delivering public services. Traditionally, governments are not typically seen as first adopters of technology, however, this is changing. We’re increasingly seeing more and more public services become digitised.
For example, technology has largely sat at the heart of managing the pandemic. From contact tracing apps to check-in technology and vaccination passports, the government has had to lean on tech and innovation to manage the outbreak and map the road ahead.
Today, as we navigate a new future that is truly digital-first, the next innovation that could hit Singapore very soon is digital birth certificates — rendering paper birth certificates a thing of the past.
We’re already seeing digital versions being tested in Australia, signalling what could soon be landing on our shores. In Australia, the initiative is a direct result of the pandemic, which similar to Singapore has accelerated the digitisation of government services.
However, as we know, people have traditionally been reluctant to fully trust or use digital services created by the government, due to concerns over data privacy. Therefore, for digital birth certificates to work, they’ll need to be safe, secure and trusted by citizens — something that effective identity management technology can help to achieve.
The new need for digital services
The digitalisation of government services is essential in providing the absolute best experiences for citizens and also helps to make interactions smoother, something that is valued during times of upheaval, such as pandemics. Take a digital ID for example. Using a digital ID over a physical one reduces the chances of it getting lost, or being forgotten at home. Not to mention, it removes the risk of spreading infection as it is more hygenic because it’s a touchless verification of the hard copy. Digital services also open up opportunities for integration like never before. Through an open API and partnerships, digital ID’s can grant you access to hundreds of other services too.
It’s remarkable how relatively underutilised technology was before the pandemic hit. For example, the video-conferencing platform, Zoom, was around for ten years prior. It quickly went from hosting 10 million meetings a day during Dec 2019 to 300 million meetings a day by June the following year. This is equally shocking when we think about the low adoption rate of digital IDs. The SingPass digital identity scheme had been around for more than 18 years before the pandemic hit, with 700,000 users. Today, the service has more than 2.5 million users as a result of its SafeEntry check-in feature.
In recent months as a result of the surge in SingPass users, the platform received its first makeover in almost 20 years, now boasting access to 1,400 services offered by more than 340 organisations from both private and public sectors.
Building a secure platform
With digital IDs already heavily integrated into everyday Singaporean life, now may be the perfect time to test and roll out digital birth certificates.
However, for digital birth certificates to work, the Singapore government needs to be honest, clear and transparent about how data is being used from the beginning. Our recent research, The New Normal report, which investigates how consumer behaviors have changed in light of the pandemic, suggests that Singaporeans are not averse to providing access to their data, so long as they are told upfront what it will be used for.
The platform will also need to be secure. In almost 20 years, SingPass has only suffered one minor data breach in 2014. As such, the government is likely well equipped to securely manage digital ID services. With cyber-attacks at an all-time high, this experience will be crucial in ensuring birth certificate data does not land in the wrong hands.
Alongside privacy and security, authenticating the credentials in these birth certificates will also be critical. Blockchain-based verification presents one means of achieving this, and when utilised in conjunction with biometric verification, it will ensure authenticity is prioritised for the credentials of each digital birth certificate.
With SingPass soaring in Singapore, digital birth certificates could be the next step to moving all IDs online and simplifying the identification process. The technology could have the ability to integrate with other government and non-government services to streamline the overall experience for Singaporeans.
Over the past year, technology has come such a long way and it’s exciting to think about what is coming next. Digital birth certificates are just one example of this, and something that likely could have been years away if it wasn’t for the intensity of the last year and the pandemic’s impact on tech adoption.