ASEAN nations are revamping their national identity system to ensure better access to services internationally.

In 2022, Vietnam is embarking on a project to roll out digital identities for all its citizens above the age of 14 years. Through this, multiple data points from driving licence details, to tax payments, to insurance will be captured on a single chip-based card.

In fact, it is part of the country’s digital transformation mission of 2022-25 through which an electronic population registry is being created. This will enable easier access to not just government services, but also aid in other processes such as procuring SIM cards.

Social security number equivalents in Southeast Asia are now being expanded beyond welfare schemes. The idea is to boost digitisation, keep electronic records of citizens, and consolidate the existing system into a single ID regime.

This not only benefits the individual residents of the country but also service providers. For instance, the Philippines has launched an authentication system for the national ID where government entities and private companies can verify the details of the card. This could be relevant while paying fines for traffic offences, buying property, or even making large financial transactions.

Bringing the ecosystem together

In a globalised world, national IDs don’t access social security schemes offered by the government but also help keep track of migration.

Thailand’s digital identity platform NDID is partnering with payments major Mastercard for building an international ID network. Through this, Thai citizens can use their ID cards globally for payments and even for routine services like opening bank accounts.

As the demand for social security number look-alikes increases, technology companies such as Infineon, NEC, TECH5, and Verisec involved in storing biometric data are also seeing an uptick.

The Global Digital Identity Market estimated at $16.6 billion in 2021 is expected to reach $40.44 billion by 2027, with a 16% annual growth.

Advanced economies such as Singapore have completed the digital ID project for all citizens. In Singapore, citizens can use their Singpass digital identification for accessing government services in person. In fact, the country offers more than 300 services, government and private, through Singpass. Moving to the electronic mode also helps cut the risk of card theft and identity fraud.

The initiative can be economically beneficial too. A 2019 McKinsey report found that meticulously designed digital ID programmes can add economic value equivalent to 3-13% of a country’s GDP by 2030.

Change is inevitable

With the region taking rapid strides towards the mission of ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025, the national social security IDs can no longer be left behind. This plan involves building a digitally inclusive society, backed by e-governance and technology where no citizen has to face accessibility challenges.

Countries such as Indonesia are now taking steps to digitise their existing national social security identity schemes through which card-based identification can be completely done away with.

This is only the beginning. With public-private partnerships to achieve the goal of a digital social security number system, SEA countries are learning from the world’s best practices. Minimising bureaucratic bottlenecks and maximising digitisation to make daily lives easier for its citizens is the endeavour driving this change.

As Southeast Asia studies the possibility of social security scheme portability within the region for migrant workers, it will be the electronic IDs that will form the backbone of this proposal.