While the UK struggles to make progress towards the digital transformation many experts say it needs to ensure a secure, prosperous future for its citizens, other countries around the world are proving more decisive. Adoption of “foreign” technology, as well as concerns over civil rights and liberties, have been cited as possible obstacles to progress in this area among different groups within the British polity.

Perhaps for reasons of culture and history, some nation states adapt to and adopt change more quickly than others. As a recent international conference has shown, in the field of online digital identity verification, four countries in particular are making great strides in embracing this technology; to the benefit, as their leaders see it, of their states, businesses and citizens.

International cooperation during the pandemic

October 2020 saw a Global Government Forum on digital ID. This was, of course, a webinar; apart from other logistics involved in organizing such a forum in person, the global Covid 19 pandemic made any possibility of this redundant. Nevertheless, the forum went ahead. It was a meeting between an IT provider and leading civil servants from the governments of Germany, Norway, Estonia and Singapore.

If this collection of countries seems rather unlikely, that is not surprising. The first three territories lie in northern Europe, the fourth in south east Asia. Germany is the world’s fourth richest country, Estonia the 21st. Norway has a population density of 15 people per square kilometre, Singapore 8,358. There are many other factors which divide this collection of nations and economies, but one which unites them; E-Government.

In fact, Estonia ranks in the top three of the UN’s E-Government survey. It, along with other countries including Singapore, is showing the way forward in incorporating digital transformation as a mainstream national economic strategy, post-pandemic and into the 21st century. Crucial to these strategies is the adoption of online digital ID verification.

Relative ease of implementation

Estonia and Singapore have advantages over other countries in terms of implementing national digital ID systems. In Estonia, for example, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc in the early 1990s meant that the national government was able to start from scratch in many ways. One of these was in using technology to develop the country’s economy as quickly as possible.

Singapore, meanwhile, is defined by its island geography, and is a self-contained nation state. With tight control over its borders, who is allowed to cross them, why and when, the establishment of a digital national ID system presents far fewer problems than in many nation states. Singapore is also a leading financial services provider, and an IT innovator in its own right.

Success stories

Both Estonia and Singapore have used digital ID as a means of making their citizens’ lives easier, government more efficient, and businesses more profitable. For its part, Norway is looking to streamline a national digital ID scheme with its banking system; this has already seen a 92% adoption rate among its citizens. The German government, meanwhile, is hurrying to adopt digital ID before businesses within its own borders do just that, at a huge profit.