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GSMA argues mobile identity key to better public services

Charlotte Jee | Oct. 15, 2014
Report says citizens using mobiles to vote in Estonia, take public transport in Dubai and access education in Tunisia.

Governments should improve online public services and guarantee safe, universal access by allowing citizens to certify their identity using their mobile devices, according to a report released today.

The paper by mobile operator industry group GSMA and the Secure Identity Alliance cited Estonia as an example of where mobile identity is already in place for public services thanks to the 'Mobile-ID' service, which allows citizens to pay taxes, set up companies and apply for a driving licence using their mobile phones.

'Mobile-ID' allows people to use their phone as a form of secure electronic ID using a specialised SIM card they can order from their operator.

Near field communication (NFC) technology can be used to allow people to access public transport using the mobiles, as is already the case in Dubai, the report added.

The paper said it expects mobile voting to become increasingly common as digital initiatives across the world become more mature.

In 2011, Estonia became the first country to allow mobile voting in national parliamentary elections, with three percent of all votes that year conducted on mobiles, it added.

It also pointed to the 'Najja7ni mobile learning service' in Tunisia, a new programme which is allowing 2.5 million young people to learn maths, science, French, English and Arabic on their mobile phones, even if they have no credit. It also provides career advice and services.

The report argued "mobile operators are well positioned to provide digital identity services" thanks to their scale and reach, customer billing relationship and fraud detection capabilities.

Research commissioned by GSMA last year found that almost half of UK consumers saw mobile operators as likely providers of mobile identity services, according to the paper.

However the authors acknowledged that certain challenges need to be overcome for governments to make the most of mobile identity solutions. They said legal and regulatory clarity and certainty will be crucial to encourage industry to invest, and highlighted the importance of privacy, security and user awareness.

They added that common specifications and open standards will be vital to ensure identity solutions are interoperable and can thus be used across different services.

GSMA's head of personal data Marie Austenaa said: "Mobile digital identity reduces the risk of identity theft, and simplifies the login experience for citizens to a range of services such as healthcare, government and banking while respecting their privacy.

"With a mobile identity framework in play, governments are able to give citizens direct access to services via a mobile device and can move government services into the electronic realm. It also opens the way to for the mass adoption of a whole range of digital services, including banking, personal health and education services."


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