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Digital ID

Transition to the digital ID card: closing the digital divide in Colombia

by Camerfirma

By: Héctor José García Santiago. Director of the Government and ICT Observatory of the Pontifical Xavierian University. Executive Chairman of Camerfirma Colombia. www.camerfirma.co

While it is true that the implementation of the new digital ID card will bring great benefits to citizens in terms of security and practicality, the social reality of our country must also be taken into account. In Colombia, more than half of the population does not have access to the Internet and, therefore, digital identity cards must have two formats; one, physical and two, 100% digital.

The digital divide

According to the Economic Commission for America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Digital Divide “is the line or distance between those who have access to ICT and those who do not”. This digital divide in our country also refers to the differences between groups according to their ability to use ICTs effectively, given the different levels of literacy and technological competence.

In December 2019, the Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications (MinTIC) held the public adjudication hearing to select, through a competition based on merit, the company that is to design the tools to carry out the follow-up and monitoring of the regional digital divide. The report to be provided by the consultancy firm, will make it possible to identify the Departments’ existing needs and opportunities in order to coordinate the technological offer, thus contributing to closing the digital divide of regions and boosting social and economic development throughout the national territory.

With regard to identity validation and digital ID processes, the Registry faces the challenge of having to provide an offline service that enables the use of digital onboarding technologies that can consult the biographical and biometric databases of that Registry. These state-of-the-art services must be accessible to those who do not have access to technological means, which is why the offline validation scenario takes on special importance if one takes into account that more than half of the population in Colombia does not have access to Internet.

Digital Onboarding: Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS)

Digital onboarding is a remote identity validation process, using videoconferencing, that is based on the use of biometric technology for optical and facial recognition, as well as the capture and verification of official identification documents. All  video sequences are saved and used for appropriate validation of the applicant’s data, thus facilitating access to the service or product that requires contracting.

An automated biometric identification system or ABIS is used for biometric identification that enables the comparison of a live sample against many existing biometric templates to find a record of a particular individual and verify their identity.

In Colombia, thanks to decrees 019/2012, 620/2020, 2106/2020 and Law 2052/2020, the Registry must allow access to its databases to validate the identity of individuals. In this sense, the authentication model to carry out remote procedures with government agencies will make use of digital onboarding technology, and consult the Registry’s databases. In this way, Colombians will be able to carry out procedures with the Administration wherever they are, without having to go to the agency in person, thanks to this technology that will combine facial biometric validation, digital ID verification and digital signature certificates.

From traditional ID cards to digital-physical ID cards

The materials used for current ID cards must evolve and improve. The current ID card, which is yellow with holograms, is a biometric identification document with information encrypted in a barcode. The cards are printed on high-resistance synthetic microporous material and are then laminated for security. Despite these security measures, everyone knows that in our country identity documents are falsified and that the current ID card format is vulnerable. For this reason, it is time we updated our ID card and made it more secure, with materials that provide greater security.

The current Colombian ID card must become aligned with countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Italy, where ID cards are made of polycarbonate and contain a chip with the person’s information, in encrypted form. Polycarbonate has an advantage over other materials in that it cannot be delaminated, that is, it is impossible to lift the security layer from the document because, when polycarbonate is used in pure form and not mixed with other plastics, the different polycarbonate layers are melted to form a solid monolithic structure that cannot be separated. Therefore, it is impossible to separate the polycarbonate layers once they have been fused together. That is one of the reasons why polycarbonate is so safe.

Thus, in Colombia we will have a digital-physical ID card with state-of-the-art materials such as polycarbonate, and the highest security standards, as well as an encrypted storage system, preferably a QR code, that can be read from any smartphone and does not require a reading device as chips do.

100% digital ID card

Digital ID cards are those that are 100% digital and will be stored on our mobile devices. They will have an encrypted storage system such as a QR code. A QR code consists of black squares arranged in a quadrilateral pattern on a white background, which can be read by an imaging device such as a camera and processed for the image to be properly interpreted. This system will enable the storage of important citizen information such as their digital certificate to authenticate their identity or fingerprint biometric template or digital photograph, or a digital image of their handwritten signature or corresponding affiliation data. In the future, they will also be capable of storing other documents, including electronic medical records, among others.

Thus, those of us who want to have a digital ID card, which is not mandatory at this time, will have our new ID card in two formats: a physical card made of new materials and security standards, which can be used by anyone even without an Internet connection, and a 100% digital card, which is the same digital ID card, but stored on our mobile devices.

Uses for the digital ID card

The digital card, like the traditional ID card, will enable Colombians to exercise their civil and political rights. Citizens will be able to carry out all kinds of procedures with the Administration from the comfort of their own homes and will even be able, in a not too distant future, to vote electronically.

Other procedures that will be facilitated with the digital ID card include: obtaining a driver’s licence; duplicating an ID card; the military passbook; certifications;  presentation of petitions, complaints and claims; receiving notifications, among many others.

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