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National id and the real id act

07:19, 14/07/2021

The past ten years have brought a sea-change in what citizens and governments expect national ID cards to deliver and identity to be.

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This period has also been filled with incremental tech developments serving as a foundation for a smarter citizen ID future. 

Five topics have moved to the main stage in the past few years:

Biometrics, Electronic national cards, Mobile IDs, Virtual documents such as "mobile" driver"s license The need to set up a national identity framework 

Biometric IDs are here.

Fast forward to 2021, and digital identity technologies such as smart cards and biometrics have come of age.

An estimated 120 countries are now deploying electronic passports incorporating these highly secure features, and over 70 countries are implementing eID cards.

National ID cards have undergone a considerable transformation; simple paper documents designed for single identification applications have given way to smarter documents in the form of a credit card. 

These citizen ID cards or eIDs include a microprocessor for more robust document verification and online authentication and signature.

As they contain the cardholder"s portrait and very often fingerprints, they can be used for biometric identification and biometric authentication when needed.

And guess what?

Passed on 20 June 2019, the 2019/1157  EU regulation gives its Member States two years to implement ID cards" security features aligned with those of passports.

The Member States and Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein will need to start to issue these new cards with a secure contactless chip and the holder"s photo, and two fingerprints in the 2021-2022 timeframe as the directive come into force 12 months after publication and States have two years to comply.

According to the government website and following European regulations, France is gradually issuing its new national biometric ID card from 16 March 2021. It, therefore, adopts the credit card format (85.60 × 53.98 mm, to be precise) and incorporates a contact and contactless electronic chip. This was not the case with the previous national ID card. The new, highly secure polycarbonate card is free and valid for 10 years.

 France announced its new biometric eID card on 16 March 2021.


There"s more.

This new generation of computerized national identity cards offers one of the best identity theft protection.

These eID cards also enable governments to implement online applications such as eGovernment solutions giving citizens access to public services with the reassurance of robust security.​​​

The development of these government-issued IDs means a single card can offer a host of applications – from acting as a driver"s license, enabling the user to file their taxes, or giving him/her access to state benefits.

More from Thales on secure document implementations around the world.


3,6 billion citizens to carry a national eID card by 2021

But while some nations have been reticent in adopting eIDs, other countries have been far more bullish.

We"ve seen implementations across Europe (except the UK), in Asia with China, Malaysia, Mongolia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Indonesia, to name a few, or across Africa with countries like the Republic of South Africa, Nigeria, and more recently with Algeria and Cameroun.

Added to that are deployments across large parts of Europe, in the Gulf, and parts of Latin America.

All provide inspiring examples of the potential of eIDs to affect millions of ordinary lives throughout developed and emerging economies.

In early 2017, 82% of all countries issuing National ID cards have implemented eID programs. ​Annual issuance will peak in 2019 at 679 million state-issued IDs with a chip. 

According to research company Acuity Market Intelligence, electronic National ID cards in circulation will reach 3.6 billion citizens by 2021.

Electronic IDs" rapidly evolving dominance reflects the global drive towards eGovernment and eCommerce services enabled by electronic identities.

According to Acuity, this move will provide substantial opportunities as national, regional, and global transaction infrastructures secured by a trusted digital identity scheme emerge over the next five years.



Philippines started to register millions for national ID cards in October 2020. The Government’s target is 92 million by 2022.


PhilSys, the Philippine Identification System (Republic Act 11055 of 6 August 2018), includes biographical information (name, sex, date, and place of birth, blood type, address, and nationality) and biometric data (fingerprints, facial photos, and iris scans).

The government aims to create a single national identification system for all citizens and resident aliens of the Republic of the Philippines (population 110 million in 2021). 

The new centralized system will grant a unique ID number for each person, and ID cards will be issued. 

Replacing 33 identification cards, the Philippine national ID can be used as proof of identification for all transactions, whether by a government agency or a private organization. It"s a major tool for social and financial inclusion.

National identity and economic empowerment

The case for eID cards and ePassports is quite straightforward for most people in the eID industry. 

In the business world, they play a crucial role in enabling financial services firms and telecom companies to fulfill Know Your Customer (KYC)  requirements and carry out Know Your Employee checks. They allow government departments to interact with their citizens more effectively around the clock.

In the border control environment, combined with facial recognition and biometric authentication systems, they boost security and improve passenger throughput, giving authorities the confidence that the person standing in front of them is who he or she claims to be.

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And the best part?

Emerging economies see the value of digital ID credentials because they promote economic empowerment, drive democracy, and aid economic development, as highlighted by the World Bank Group initiative named ID4D. 

They show the rest of the world that they are modern, secure, and trustworthy states, implementing new technologies and standards, and open for business.

Furthermore, secure ID technology that can be used cross-border is essential as it promotes regional integration and stability and makes economic development more likely.

Yes, you"re right.

There are similarities with the European Regulation put in place in September 2018.

This interoperability is what the European eIDAS Regulation on digital identification and trust services for digital transactions is trying to achieve.

A digital trust framework will allow European citizens of 31 countries to free themselves from uncoordinated and separate infrastructures. ​

One of the most innovative aspects of the Regulation is the possibility of accessing many services throughout Europe using the same national digital identity, whether public or private, provided that it has been officially validated by the authorities of the country where it is currently in use. ​


​Mobile ID – digital identity at work

Over recent years, mobile identity (mID) has proved an increasingly popular choice with citizens, thanks to its convenience, ergonomics, and high security level.

The rapid adoption of m-Government services in countries that have chosen to focus on mobile communication devices has demonstrated the appeal of this secure and trusted method of identification.

Some visionary countries have leaped mobile ID or mID by creating a mechanism using an eID component for accessing online services via mobile devices. 

Pioneers include countries with strong market penetration of cell phones and new technology, such as Austria, Estonia, Finland, Norway, and Turkey.

Mobile ID projects are sometimes driven by the need for a universal form of identification (Austria 2003), or Estonia in 2007, to supplement a national card program and accelerate electronic identity and digital signature development. 

In 2014, Oman was the first country in the Middle East to complement its national electronic ID card with a mobile ID scheme.

As a highly trusted channel between citizens and service providers, mobile ID extends its use from egovernment into other online areas such as banking and payment.


"1984" did not happen.

Contrary to the vision of novelist George Orwell in "1984", national eID schemes have shown that managing citizen IDs can protect civil liberties, identity, and social interactions in a state of law.

Electronic records on individual citizens are available upon their owner"s request in many European countries with a national eID scheme.

As former President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves puts it: "You own your own data, so you have the right to access it any time." 

​When introducing its national eID in Belgium, the government offered citizens an application to know who has accessed their data.

And of course, the key to accessing this online app is the national eID card. Each citizen can consult their personal file in the national data register to see a record of when government officials have accessed their data and for what reason. 

It"s an excellent example of how transparency and traceability in every transaction between governments and citizens can help protect privacy and strengthen trust.

Read more on transparency and traceability in the following Thales white paper on eGov 2.0.

There"s more.

We’re seeing the emergence of a global consensus on privacy protection, explicitly incorporating biometric data, as illustrated in particular by the regulations known as the General Data Protection Regulation put in place in Europe and the UK in May 2018. ​ 

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), implemented as of 1 January 2020, is also a significant step toward privacy rights and consumer protection. It may serve as a guide for several US states like Massachusetts, Utah, North Dakota, and Washington. 

New York now stands beside California. New York"s Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security Act (SHIELD Act) is effective 21 March 2020.

Federal legislative hearings are also taking place in 2020 on that very topic.


​On the road to the virtual driver"s license

So when will we have a digital driver"s license on our mobile phone?

Well, sooner than you may think. Here is why.

Today you can already do a lot with a smartphone. And the trend for on-phone payment, loyalty, or travel applications may yet bring the driver"s license to your mobile. 

While a driver"s license primarily confirms the identity and driving rights, a virtual driver"s license, also called a mobile driver"s license or digital driver"s license, potentially brings many more benefits and opportunities for issuers, regulatory authorities, and particularly drivers.

The traditional driver"s license is an essential proof of ID (identity and age) checked by enforcement agencies, retailers, and financial institutions alike. A mobile driver"s license would provide an on-screen version of the traditional photo and driver information and more. 

A highly secure mobile application has more robust counterfeiting characteristics, enables driver data to be updated instantly, and facilitates real-time communication, opening the way to new business models using a trusted and secure channel. 

Though the mobile driver"s license still has some distance to travel before becoming a complement or replacement to the plastic license we are used to, there"s an interest in other countries like Australia, Brasil, and the UK also looking into this option. 


To learn more about digital driver"s license initiatives, visit our dedicated web dossier.

Several US states have launched pilots​​ to explore the user convenience, privacy, security, and interoperability of mobile driver licenses.​

In July-August 2017, Colorado and Maryland ​initiated digital driver"s license live pilots. Feedback collected like this one is highly motivating.