In February 2018, Canada joined the Digital 71, a network of countries that aim to harness digital technology for the benefit of citizens and the broader digital economy. One element of this strategy is developing a trusted digital identity platform that allows citizens to register just once for a range of government services available online.
Such a system may help to address some of the inefficiencies associated with manual validation processes and help contribute to protecting both citizens and agencies from identity-related risks such as fraud and theft. Susan Crutchlow, Vice President of TransUnion Canada’s Government Vertical, takes us through some of the elements of adopting a pan-Canadian approach to digital identity, and the role data could play in digital government services.
1The Digital 7 is now known as the Digital 9, as of November 2018.
As expectations among consumers for digital services rise, governments are looking to evolve their service strategies and leverage technology to provide citizens with online digital service delivery.
Currently, the Canadian government’s vision is to become “an open and service-oriented organization that operates and delivers programs and services to people and businesses in simple, modern and effective ways that are optimized for digital and available anytime, anywhere and from any device.”2
“A digital identity is essentially the electronic equivalent of your physical person”
Having a trusted digital identity platform will likely be an important component of the success of the Canadian digital economy. A White Paper released by the Digital ID & Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC) states: "It is vital that consumers/citizens and businesses are provided with trusted digital identities that allow them to access digital services efficiently and safely."3
A digital identity is essentially the electronic equivalent of your physical person. It’s important to being able to move government services online—which, in an increasingly digital world, is likely where citizens prefer them to be. A trusted digital identity platform can help to reduce some of the inefficiencies (and associated costs) of the current system, and can enable different government jurisdictions to coordinate seamless service delivery for citizens.
Citizens want quick, convenient access to government programs and services online, and the assurance that their personal information will be used and disclosed responsibly. Some may see the government as a single entity, yet with the current system, in many instances consumers have to open a separate account with different government departments or agencies in order to access public services. The procedures for doing so can also be cumbersome and time-consuming. For example, some current programs may take up to 10 days to provide a consumer with a log in access code once an online application has been completed.
Given that there is an abundance of different government services that citizens can register for online, it’s easy to see the benefits of government adopting a pan-Canadian approach to digital identity. This approach can help to meet citizens’ expectations of providing their personal information just once, or only when necessary, with consent.
There are several potential financial benefits to a Canadian digital identity system, too.
The DIACC’s (conservative) estimate of the potential value of a trusted digital identity to the economy is $15 billion — 1% of GDP. Some of the potential economic benefits of digital identity solutions as follows:
Source: DIACC White Paper - The Economic Impact of Digital Identity in Canada (see hyperlink in footnote).
Providing a seamless registration and login process for citizens across different government agencies will require sophisticated identity verification systems. Currently, different sectors (healthcare, government financial services, etc.) manage identity separately, possibly resulting in long processing times and high transaction fees.
Government agencies could also see a benefit in augmenting their existing online identity verification systems. In addition to the information that government agencies already have, data from alternative sources like a credit bureau could help to streamline and strengthen the identity verification process.
Aggregating traditional (financial and credit) data as well as real estate, mobile phone and utility information can assist in validating a citizen’s identity when they first register on the platform, and in authenticating them each time they log in. With the right tools for processing and analyzing this kind of data, the government will be further supported in building a safe, secure and trusted ecosystem for Canadian digital identity.
Leveraging digital identity management tools
TransUnion is a global data provider of the financial and credit information for 28 million credit-active Canadians. Our identity management solutions help organizations assess risk and better avoid fraud and back office inefficiencies.
2Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Digital Operations Strategic Plan: 2018-2022,