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The Case for Digital Identification

While the hyper-digitization of the planet has improved many aspects of people’s lives, especially in developing countries, it has also complicated online safety. To secure personal data, rationalize online navigation, and boost financial inclusion, governments should embrace electronic IDs.

MUMBAI/SAN FRANCISCO – Worldwide, more than four billion people are connected to the Internet, spending an average of roughly six hours per day on Internet-enabled devices and services. In Thailand and the Philippines, average daily usage is 9.5 hours; in the United States, 26% of the population is online “almost constantly;” and one billion more people in the world are projected to join the ranks of internet users by 2022. Yet as we embrace the digital world, the complexity of navigating it securely, efficiently, and in a personalized manner becomes more acute. One promising solution is already being deployed in some countries: digital identification.

The case for “digital IDs” – the electronic equivalent of physical identification– is strong. For starters, most Internet users are unable to keep track of their digital footprint and find it inconvenient to register, authenticate, and manage online accounts. On average, 90 online accounts are linked to every email address, and this total doubles every five years. It is no wonder, then, that 25% of users forget one password at least once a day, and about a third of all calls to banks’ call centers are requests to reset misplaced or forgotten passwords.

Carefully designed digital IDs can also help defend against data breaches targeting retailers, a growing concern for many consumers. In just the last two months, for example, security breaches were reported by Marriott and Quora, exposing the personal information of hundreds of millions of customers. As the scope and sophistication of hacks increase, the need for better security is obvious.