Singapore to recognize digital IDs for in-person interactions with government

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Singapore residents will soon be able to use digital ID cards instead of physical cards when applying for and accessing government services in person. The digital version of the National Registration Identity Card (NRIC) is stored in the SingPass mobile app, and will waive the need for a physical ID card in some government offices as of November 1.


The Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) and the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) are supporting the new initiative and will launch an advertising campaign in the coming months to encourage more people to take advantage of the SingPass utility. Residents will be able to use their ID cards at public health clinics, public libraries, and when registering for housing and entering government facilities.

However, they will still need a physical ID to register for a marriage license, check in at a hotel, or when involved in a criminal investigation. Singaporean law currently requires physical identification in these situations, although GovTech and SNDGO have suggested that the law may be amended to allow the use of digital identities in these cases. A physical ID card is also required for school exams, if only because students are not allowed to pick up their phones in the exam room.

The government hopes that digital ID cards will speed up the registration process at government offices, as administrators no longer need to photocopy ID cards for their records. Singapore also hopes to extend the service to the private sector to enable people to use their digital NRIC to open bank accounts and telecommunications services. Those who use the digital card would no longer need to take a photo of their ID and could instead share their personal information with a QR code scan.

Like the physical NRIC, the digital version comes with a barcode to facilitate information sharing, and complements it with an animated lion crest to prevent identity theft. The SingPass app itself can be secured with a PIN code or with a fingerprint or facial biometrics. Users will be able to use the app to store digital versions of driver’s licenses and other certifications in addition to their NRIC, although residents should still report and replace any lost or stolen physical cards.

Currently, 97% of the Singaporean public (over 15) have opened a SingPass account. Over the next few months, the government will update the app to support Chinese, Malay, and Tamil languages. Residents can already use SingPass to access government services online.

Source: The times of the straits

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