A new report from Juniper Research says that ‘government issued digital identity credentials’ will grow by over 150% in the next five years. Currently standing at 1.7 billion users, this is expected to grow to over five billion in 2024.
The report suggests that the largest growth will come from emerging economies in Asia Pacific and Africa as various countries ‘leapfrog’ into the digital age without the encumbrances of analogue. Countries such as Malawi are cited in the report and this because countries such as Malawi are already very used to using fingerprint identity technology when it comes to payments and money transfers.
As with similar innovations, there was some push back when Governments introduced such cards in markets across North America and Europe. Yet, things such as digital driving licenses triggered uptake.
Juniper believes that single sign on will drive much of this growth, with over a billion users by 2023, generating over $5 billion in revenues.
Blockchain based systems will be slow to emerge, says Juniper, as simpler apps will be quicker to bring to market.
The potential for mobile, digital identity schemes has been around for years. Back in the 1990s, GSM devices were trialled by one or two operators and countries as perfectly secure identity devices and, frankly, it was a shame they did not take off.
Mobile identity makes perfect sense. It is a personal device, you almost always have it with you and with the advent of more advanced facial recognition technology it is hard to see a downside.
There is, of course, the small problem that the more important your mobile device becomes (and it is already extremely important) the more it becomes a focus for attack. As one security consultant who works in quite dangerous parts of Africa remarked recently, ‘it is all very well digitally protecting your passwords but if you have a gun to your head or a knife to your throat, it counts for little’.
As with almost all other technological advances the idea is great but a great deal of thought and care needs to be put into the security aspects. Blockchain may provide part of the answer to this, and might become a vital piece of the puzzle, in the longer term.