Estonian digital identity pioneer Cybernetica in the Asian hotspot

cybernetica e-estonia singapore

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Cybernetica shines as one of the lead authors of the renowned Estonian digital architecture. In September, Cybernetica shone again as a silver sponsor of the Identity Week Asia conference, which brought together the brightest minds in the identity sector in Singapore. Considering that Asia Pacific’s digital identity market is growing 21% annually, reaching $148.74 billion over 2020-2030, this is one of the current hotspots of the field. Marika Popp, Head of Sales and Partnership for Digital Identity Technologies at Cybernetica, was leading a round table on The EU Digital Wallet at the conference. 

Proof of identity as a fundamental right

One of the obvious questions in Singapore was why governments should deal with digital ID in the first place. These may seem like highly advanced digital gadgets meant for the rich and busy, and one undoubtedly would come up with seemingly more critical areas to develope that would ensure the income or safety of people. However, this is precisely where the reasons are hidden. In a society where contrasts between the rich and the poor are significant, so are differences in their access to (public) services. Digital solutions, applied in the right way, are allowing access with a much lower threshold. Universal and easy access to all digital government services is not a fancy add-on but is at the core of contemporary government duties. It boosts economic and social welfare. This is one reason the UN has also declared September 16 “Identity day“.

Hence, according to Ms Popp, the key is to pay attention not only to access to digital but also access to the required hardware. Cybernetica’s approach has always been to remain hardware agnostic. As a result, no platform or producer is essential to use its trust, identification and encryption tools. This is obviously preferable to people who cannot always afford the latest mobile phone model. 

Also, connectivity may be an issue. Unreliable internet services hamper digitalisation in Asia and African countries, for example, adopting digital agriculture solutions. Ms Popp reported that the appropriate answer is to therefore skip the e-solutions stage and get right into m-solutions. But, again, making it as low-tech as possible is vital.

marika popp cybernetica e-estonia

Security and interoperability: lessons from Estonia

Two main topics that were raised during Identity Week were identity thefts and interoperability. With hundreds of millions of potential users, identity thefts in Asia are often massive. Existing technologies do not always address this adequately. This is where Cybernetica could showcase its strong side. Its two-step authentication and the SplitKey technology, which never places digital keys together, have until today remained un-hackable.

Yet, introducing digital ID solutions in a country is more than just activating one technological gadget. This is where the Estonian experience from the 1990s has been extremely valuable. The main lesson is in creating trusting relationships between core partners. In the development of Estonian digital ID, for example, banks had a vital role because secure digital transactions were essential for them.

“Our main message in Asia stems from this: while technological premises such as unique identifiers are important, the first steps should be identifying the services given access to and who owns them,” says Ms Popp. “This also creates demanding customers for the digital identities that want to ensure it is secure and functional.”

EU driving global standards

The bigger picture of interoperability was one of the main topics of the round table Ms Popp was leading. The event’s name was telling — “Future unified digital identification system for Europe or the world?” On the one hand, the European digital identity regulations (EIDAS) are setting the strictest standards for data security in global comparison. There is no direct necessity for other countries to adopt these standards. Yet, on the other hand, governments are inclined to do so because this would ensure interoperability between their respective digital wallets. Already, Indonesia is aiming for compatibility in this regard. Hence the EU is driving the global standards of digital data management, and Estonia is in the engine room.






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