eID scheme (still) on right track?

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The Dutch digital public services must move to a higher level. To achieve this, the Dutch government has set up a programme called Digital 2017, enabling citizens and businesses to use the digital channel to manage their affairs with the government by 2017 at the latest. Examples of this digital business are applying for a license or filing an appeal. For those who want or need it, non-digital alternatives will continue to be available.

Secure access in multiple ways

To achieve this in a safe way, the government is working with the industry on a standard for access to these online services. This standard (the identity and access management for the citizen), also known as idensys, should provide the online identification and authentication. Starting points are particularly giving more certainty about the digital identity, increasing the reliability of the data and deploying a multi-eID card strategy. With the latter, a consumer can logon in different ways - both to governmental services and to business.

You can compare it to iDeal where you pay through your own bank within the same system. Apart from all this, an organization should be able to verify a person's age through this e-ID system online.

That is a quite a wish list ... and that’s why the government and the business sector have been working together on the maturation of our digital passport for three years. The implementation of the eID system resembles a rough sea journey, and has become part of a political sparring match. Meanwhile, the safe harbour of a successful outcome is not yet in sight.


Nevertheless, the development of eID system is entering a new phase. This year, the eID platform, also known as idensys, is started. The introduction of this platform is an extension of the design of eRecognition, the DigiD for businesses, which was launched six years ago. Within this framework, the business sector is conducting its affairs with the government, using applications such as ‘Omgevingsloket Online’ (Environment Desk Online) and the fairly recent TenderNed, the online marketplace for government tenders.

The Dutch government has recently agreed to start pilots in the consumer domain. Both companies and government agencies can participate by joining the new eID scheme. However, this is not as easy as it sounds: in order to join, a higher threshold applies, in accordance with entering eRecognition. A minimum of ISO270001 certification (or being in the process of implementing it) is required, as well as the necessary interfaces in the system must be developed and tested. Only after extensive testing and approval by the accession experts, suppliers are admitted to this platform. The primary goal of participation in the eID system pilots is to enhance the reliability of DigiD.

How reliable does it need to be?

STORK is a European classification with confidence levels, level 4 being the highest. In the aforementioned eID pilots, means of identification should be provided at confidence levels 3 and 4. The current DigiD is comparable to level 2.

If we want to increase the reliability to levels 3 and 4, the citizens will first have to identify themselves to the appropriate agency by means of a valid ID – a process that will cost around 70 million euros. And these costs will need to be born by the industry when a private means of identification is being used. After all, so far the DigiD is being provided to the public free of charge. Thus, the affordability of the project would seem to be a problem, unless a good business model is developed. And past experience has shown that this is not an easy task.

Moreover, other initiatives are ongoing, such as the pilot of the so-called Plasterk card, which will start in early 2016. This is a pilot by the Ministry of Interior for the use of a public means of identification, to replace the DigiD. A number of banks and the payment association are also working on a pilot for electronic identification and payment, the BankID.

It is therefore clear that the playing field around eID is still in motion. However, it is not at all clear which way it goes, and whether we are actually heading for a safe harbour - or bearing down on conflicting interests. Any owner of a crystal ball is allowed to say it. One thing is certain: a clear and effective cooperation between public and private is required to achieve a good result. It is up to the Digi-commissioner, the ambassador of the Digital 2017 programme, to bring organisations together and obtain financing. The government must work out a number of things, but the private market is obliged to take action as well.

That should be the key to success. Now we just need to find the right lock.

Robert Garskamp

Founder IDnextplatform