Photo Credit: CardMapr via Unsplash 

 

The Ontario government is launching an online consultation to seek input on their plan to introduce a digital ID by the end of 2021.

 

Through the Ontario Digital ID program, people and businesses in the province will be able to prove their identity with a completely virtual ID. The ID will be able to be saved in your smart phone’s digital wallet. 

 

Based on estimates of the economic impact of a digital ID by McKinsey Global Institute, Ontario stands to gain $8 – $25 billion in economic value following the implementation of the program.

 

The digital ID is expected to have a variety of uses for individual residents and business owners. A small business owner could, for example, register for licenses and permits and open accounts online without having to scan physical IDs, a farmer could register a farm vehicle online without needing to travel to a government office or a senior could securely share their health information with caregivers completely virtually.

 

“We want to assure people that a digital ID will not only offer simpler and easier access to services, but it will be safe, secure and encrypted; [harnessing] the latest technology to protect your information and credentials,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance and Minister Responsible for Digital and Data Transformation. “As we develop this initiative, we want to hear directly from the people to ensure their priorities are reflected in this innovative, digital approach. No one has a monopoly on good ideas and we are prepared to listen.”

 

Launched last week, the consultation will be open until February 26, 2021 via online surveys for the public and small-to-medium-size enterprises (SMEs) to complete. There will also be virtual focus groups for SMEs. Participants will have the opportunity to help shape the government’s approach to introducing a digital ID while voicing their top priorities and concerns.

 

Strong encryption and privacy-protecting technology will be at the core of a digital ID, to ensure personal information such as your name, birthdate and address remain secure. By using this technology, the provincial government hopes to provide residents with full control over what identity information is shared and with whom.

 

Ontario would not be the first province to implement a digital ID, as both British Columbia and Alberta already offer digital identities to their citizens to access local government services. Additionally, both provinces have integrated their digital identities with the Federal Government to enable residents to access federal services as well. The Ontario government plans to have a similar level of federal integration as the digital ID program is adapted provincially.

 

The differing point between Ontario’s proposed implementation though is that it would make the province the first in Canada to have citizens using digital IDs not only for public services, but for private ones as well.

 

It is important to note that this is not the first time the Ontario government has attempted to implement a digital ID project. In the late 90s and early 2000s, the government attempted to implement a smart card project using biometrics, which was the subject of controversy for a few years and ultimately failed.

 

While the digital ID is being designed to be as secure as possible, there are concerns about what data is logged and who has access to it, how vulnerable the ID framework might be and what measures are in place to combat ID theft. 

 

It’s important to note that, when implemented, the digital ID will not be mandatory for residents. Individuals who choose not to have a digital ID will still be able to prove their identity and access services with their physical documents.

 

Interested individuals are encouraged to visit www.ontario.ca/digitalID to learn more about the implementation of the provincial digital ID and to participate in the surveys.