National Digital Identity system to be cornerstone of Singapore’s Smart Nation vision

National Digital Identity system to be cornerstone of Singapore’s Smart Nation vision

GovTech will trial the use of mobile software tokens for authentication over the next six months, says the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office.

SINGAPORE: A National Digital Identity (NDI) system is currently under development and it will be one of five strategic national projects that will be crucial in laying the infrastructure and driving pervasive adoption of technology in the economy and society here.

The Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) on Sunday (Aug 20) said the NDI framework will allow citizens and businesses to transact online in a convenient and secure manner. This is alongside four other thrusts: E-payments, the Smart Nation Sensor Platform, smart urban mobility and Moments of Life, its press release said.

This comes after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted during his National Day Rally speech that Singapore needs to make a bigger push to truly transform itself into a Smart Nation.

Singaporeans have already been using SingPass for key transactions with Government agencies, and NDI will be building on the SingPass system, SNDGO said. Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative Vivian Balakrishnan had in March said the system is not good enough and there is a need for a quick upgrade.

Over the next six months, the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) will embark on trials for mobile software tokens as a “more convenient and secure authentication service”, SNDGO said.

Additionally, GovTech will also expand the MyInfo service that pre-fills online forms for Government and private sector digital services. The data vault service was launched last May, and allows citizens to provide their personal details just once to access a range of e-Government services without having to give the same details each time.

The NDI system is planned to be operational in three years’ time, with progressive trials for digital signatures to facilitate paperless transactions, the agency said.

GovTech will also work with the private sector to develop a variety of value-added services which will make use of the NDI. These include signing of digital agreements, secure storage of digital documents and building access control so as to facilitate industry innovations and drive widespread adoption in five years’ time, SNDGO said.

Singapore is following the example of countries such as Estonia and India, which has a digital ID for citizens. The Estonians, for instance, can use their digital IDs to log into bank accounts, vote online, check their medical records and submit their tax returns. 


Besides the NDI framework, SNDGO said the Government Is currently developing the Moments of Life initiative, which bundles services and information online according to what citizens may need at different key life moments, such as starting a family and raising a child in the early years.

GovTech CEO Jacqueline Poh shed some light on this in April last year, saying such services may not necessarily be tied to the organisation they are dealing with, but across different Government agencies – and once these are identified, can be pushed to citizens in an anticipatory manner.

SNDGO said an initial version of the digital service will be made available by the middle of next year and, over the next two to five years, the Government will work to expand the suite of service and information for other life moments. 

Following Mr Lee's rally speech, Dr Balakrishnan told reporters that while the technology is already there for things like digital identity, e-payments and the national sensor platform, it is the "synthesis" of the different systems that is key.

"What's lacking is integration of data, not on the hardware," he said. 

A major push in the coming days would be to get the framework for data sharing done right, Dr Balakrishnan added. In doing so, the data can then be used by private sector companies to innovate, he said, citing the example of GrabShuttle, a service that allows commuters to book seats on buses from neighbourhoods to selected locations such as the Central Business District.

The minister reiterated that all these efforts are not about the technology, but it has to be about human beings. "No one gets left behind," he asserted.  

Source: CNA/kk