By Joni Brennan, DIACC and Antoine Normand, In-Sec-M
Originally published by The Hill Times
If the global pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that the need for reliable and secure data is paramount as businesses, governments, and Canadians from Vancouver to Quebec City to Charlottetown and everywhere in between move online.
From receiving emergency pandemic benefits to ensuring health records are correct and helping children and youth with online education, the pandemic has put a renewed spotlight on the need for governments to move with urgency to invest in digital infrastructure. In fact, it’s critical to ensuring Canadians receive the services they need and that businesses can participate fully and securely in the global digital economy.
At the core of this infrastructure is a secure digital identity, which is essential to the function of daily life during a pandemic.
The majority of Canadians believe it is important for federal and provincial governments to move quickly on enabling digital ID in a safe and secure manner, according to a recent survey from the Digital Identification and Authentication Council of Canada. Investing in digital ID makes economic sense, especially for small- and medium-sized enterprises. For SMEs, the impact of digital identity can be used to improve processes that are difficult today, resulting in a potential $4.5-billion of added value to SMEs and reinvestments in the Canadian economy.
In Canada, the DIACC and its participating banks have identified potential net savings per institution at or above $100-million per year, through operational efficiencies created by reducing manual processing costs and curbing fraud.
Additionally, an estimated $482-million is lost each year on the manual setup of user accounts within federal and provincial government services because of the need to prove identity with paper credentials. Issuing digital ID credentials is essential to a modern government operating in the digital age.
These are just a few of the myriad ways in which digital ID can help contribute to our post-pandemic economic recovery.
Contrary to several misconceptions, digital ID is not about surveillance or tracking Canadians’ online activity. It’s about using the identification Canadians already have offline (e.g.: passports, driver’s licences, health cards, citizenship cards); having those credentials securely issued digitally; and being able to use them for digital transactions—from opening a bank account from the comfort of home to accessing medical records to receiving government benefits quickly and easily.
There are technology solutions and services that already exist today to easily adopt a digital ID ecosystem. In fact, in Quebec, the government has committed to issuing a strong digital ID to residents in the province in 2021. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel—changes can be made through regulations and policy setting.
Additionally, in order for a safe and secure digital ID ecosystem to be successful, a trust framework that instills confidence for Canadians is paramount. The DIACC spearheaded the Pan-Canadian Trust Framework, an international collaborative approach to modernizing digital service delivery that’s recognized by the World Economic Forum and others.. This made-for-Canada framework enables the development of an adaptable infrastructure that will make the Canadian digital ID ecosystem more resilient to future crises.
But there is so much more work to be done. Our digital future rests on getting the digital ID right. This means ensuring the federal government’s Digital Charter Implementation Act, Bill C-11, enacts a 360-degree rights regime and includes public-sector data subject to the legislation. There is no clear policy directive in C-11 that allows Canadians to understand what they can expect in terms of accessing the data the federal public service has regarding them. The federal government must empower Canadians to access their own data and be able to use the credentials associated with it in a modern digital economy.
In the province of Quebec, the proposed Bill 64 to protect personal data introduces new concepts of consent, disclosure obligations in case of a breach, the transfer of personal information to other jurisdictions and very strong penalties for contravening the act (up to four per cent of the worldwide sales).
Digital ID means decreased costs for governments, consumers, and businesses while improving service delivery and driving GDP growth. Not adopting digital ID in a meaningful way or not getting it right means more privacy and security breaches, loss of revenue for Canadian businesses and inefficiencies in government service delivery. There’s never been a better time to invest in digital ID. Our economic recovery depends on it.
Joni Brennan is president of the Digital ID and Authentication Council of Canada. Antoine Normand is president of IN-SEC-M, a Canadian cybersecurity cluster.
The Hill Times