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The WWW of NID

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been digging into the National ID market in preparation of our upcoming report “The Global National ID Industry Report”. I cannot help but conclude that it is a Wild Wild West out there.

A quick look:

  1. There are nations without a Population Register at all, and ones with a population register of questionable reliability;

  2. Some nations have voter ID cards posing as National ID cards but not reaching half of the population, and some nations have voluntary National ID’s reaching an unknown part of its citizens;

  3. Some cards are still made of paper and thus highly susceptible to fraud, others include the latest security features including first and second line, IC chip with digital signatures, and match-on-card biometrics;

  4. There are nations issuing NID smart cards without biometrics, and at least one nation recording biometric data of all of its population but not requiring a particular card or card format.

There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the particular format of National ID program a country chooses.

Or is there? Think of it. Is our society dominated by physical evidence and physical transactions? I don’t think so. We have made a steady shift over the last 30 years to a back-end dominated infrastructure. It’s only been in the last 10 years or so that government–issued identification documents have started picking up the pace, but during that period there is a definite trend towards increased significance of digital infrastructures.

In the process countries have had to grapple with national and international legislative hurdles, societal objections (Big Brother), widely divergent infrastructure conditions, general state of technology, investment priorities and funding issues. In addition, I don’t think the business case for $100 million + investments has ever sufficiently been made. Sure, we talk about eGov, but I yet have to see detailed revenue or cost-saving forecasts.

The complexity of these issues has led countries to experiment with different models, hence the Wild Wild West.  And while a universal model has yet to emerge, one thing is sure: we’ll move rapidly in the direction to unique ID’s primarily being managed in the backend rather than on the card.

It is from this perspective particularly interesting to note that the United States – the country with perhaps the fiercest opposition against any form of national ID – has quietly been working on a unique ID. In July 2010 it launched a draft for The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace soliciting feedback and suggestions, and in late January of this year it appointed Jeremy Grant to manage the establishment of a National Program Office. Jeremy has held leadership positions in identity management and cybersecurity for many years and is well prepared to take the lead.

And while the US is going to great lengths to assure the American public NSTIC is not the loathed national ID, one must wonder if this will not be the future of all national ID’s worldwide. In other words, will National ID’s  move to the World Wide Web?


– Rudie

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