Mobile ID: A quick fix to inequality in Thailand

Today, we are familiar with processing self-identification through PIN code, biometrics and facial recognition when using your smartphone.

What if we can cast the vote, register a new company or pay electricity bill by just using your mobile phone number?

The International Telecommunication Union defines digital identity as the digital representation of an entity, detailed enough to make the individual distinguishable within the digital context, which has a broad technology can refer to.

One of the most focused digital technology for “critical mass adoption” is mobile identity, the extension of digital identity provided via mobile networks or devices. It is not just an enabler for logging-in and transacting, but the heart of achieving digital economy. It plays a vital role in communication and interaction with people and things.

In 2016, Thailand’s telecom national regulator introduced biometric SIM registration in an effort to advancing national security after a raft of bombings in deep south. Under the rules, all mobile operators must capture and validate subscribers’ biometrics credentials (fingerprints or facial scans) against the data stored on their national identification smartcards. It’s identical to the government’s central citizen database.Pichit Kaewmakoon, Head of Regulatory Strategy at dtac, said: “Mobile technology can transform Thailand’s identification system in a fast pace thanks to the country’s mobile penetration of more than 100%, assuming that almost of every Thais will be able to access governmental identification system.

Without legal proof of identity, people are left uncounted and invisible, meaning they could miss out on their rights being protected and upheld, as well as essential services like health care and education.

“That’s why mobile ID plays a crucial role in accelerating digital economy and the role of mobile operators will go beyond connectivity,” said Mr.Pichit

In the most recent development regarding mobile ID, five members of the Telecommunications Association of Thailand under the Royal Patronage (TCT) – TOT, True Move, AIS, CAT and dtac – have signed an agreement on a joint research program on mobile national ID (MNID). The central platform will benefit and accelerate the transformation of digital economy and society, such as eGovernment, eEducation and eHealth.

Challenges and opportunities of MNID

We might have heard the buzzword of Thailand 4.0 initiative in recent years. The government’s initiative is aimed at unlocking the country from several economic challenges, especially “a middle-income trap”.

In Pakistan, Telenor Pakistan together with UNICEF and the local government joined hands to launch digital birth registration initiative, the innovative pilot project using mobile phones to empower lady health workers to register newborn children. The initiative is part of a larger effort to strengthen Pakistan’s birth registration system via mobile phones, allowing the vulnerable group a better access to social welfare and leading to a reduction of inequality gap in the society.

Critical mass adoption is a key to develop a successful platform. Therefore, government agencies themselves should first embrace mobile ID, such as water and power bills as well as. More importantly, the central platform should be trusted and made reliable.

“I believed that mobile national ID will massively benefit to the country, propelling the administration system to eGovernment transformation. While personal dada will be more secured, reducing data privacy threats,” added Mr.Pichit.

Currently, mobile operators and the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission are developing a trusted platform for mobile national ID under regulatory sandbox. It has marked the first step in developing ecosystem of digital ID.

Woman’s hand is scanning biometric fingerprint for approval to access smartphone. Concept of the danger of using electronic devices is important.

e-Estonia, the world’s most advanced digital society

Estonia, a small country in Europe with population of 1.3 million, is renowned itself for the world’s most advanced digital society. Presently, 99% of government agency contact can be made digitally, ranging from I-Vote to eBusiness registration.

Every Estonian has a state issued digital identity with high level of trust certified by the European Union’s eIDAS. e-Estonia allows them to provide digital signatures using their ID-card, Mobile ID or Smart ID. This help them safely identify themselves and use e-services. Today, the adoption of e-identity of Estonians reached 30%.

Moreover, Estonia is advancing its identification system, empowered by blockchain technology, leading them to reach the next level of digital society.