Digital identity is key to achieving national objectives
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Insights: Digital identity is key to achieving national objectives

Insights: Digital identity is key to achieving national objectives

The UAE has embraced the vision of a sustainable future, investing heavily in renewable energy and dynamic technologies centered around innovation

Gulf Business
Digital identity

The UAE has long been a pioneer of smart technologies and digital transformation across both government and private sectors, embracing new technologies to improve transparency, efficiency and the public experience for all residents within the country.

Groundbreaking initiatives such as Dubai’s Smart City, the Emirates Digital Wallet, eSignature and digital certification and UAE pass, have all reinforced digital transformation efforts and became major success stories while providing citizens with secure access to various government and private applications and websites.

With COP28 being held in the UAE later this year, the UAE has embraced the vision of a sustainable future, investing heavily in renewable energy and dynamic technologies centered around innovation.

As the country becomes more urbanised, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 is gaining paramount importance, with the UAE successfully transitioning towards sustainable cities with a multipronged approach that includes using advanced technologies such as city digital twins for spatial planning, integrating artificial intelligence (AI) to achieve high city sustainability and living standards, promoting sustainable and smart mobility solutions and reducing energy and water consumption.

However, the more rapidly the country develops this digital infrastructure, the more urgently we require solutions that establish trust between ourselves, other people, enterprises, and governments in the digital sphere.

Unsurprisingly, a digital identity, or the ability to authenticate digital users and assets, is the foundation for traversing digital and physical worlds and is now seen by 85 per cent of executives as a strategic business imperative, not just a technical issue.

This was one finding from the Accenture Technology Vision 2023, “When Atoms Meet Bits: The Foundations of Our New Reality,” which explores the technology trends underpinning the convergence of the physical and digital, as businesses look to accelerate enterprise reinvention in the here and now.

Where physical meets digital

Digital identity gives us a foundation to traverse the digital and physical worlds, as the concept of a trusted, portable digital identity across the web disrupts many of the conventions we’ve come to accept. We have seen tokenisation become one of the most innovative technology trends that are transforming how we authenticate ourselves, share data, own digital assets, and track physical things.

These digital identity systems can help the public sector reduce fraud and leakage in government-to-person transfers, facilitate new modes of service delivery, and increase overall administrative efficiency. They can also unlock noneconomic value, including those of inclusion, rights protection, and transparency.

When well-designed, digital identity not only enables civic and social empowerment but also makes real and inclusive economic gains.

According to the World Bank, Digital ID could contribute to providing access to financial services for over 1.7 billion individuals who are currently financially excluded. Therefore, Digital ID is further helping diminish the financial inclusion gap through the rise of cashless societies.

To reap the benefits of digital economy, the UAE, is continuously at the forefront and making strides through its various government initiatives and regulations.

For instance, appointing a Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications who aims to enhance government performance levels by investing in the latest technologies and AI tools and applying them in various sectors.

Other initiatives include launching UAE Pass, the first national digital ID and signature solution, which is meant to enable users to identify themselves to government service providers across the UAE through smartphone-based authentication.

These steps, among others, are stepping stones toward the nation’s venture to unlock the full potential of the digital world.

Creating trust

While digital technology can increase privacy and security in some ways, it can also increase many of the risks associated with collecting and managing personal data. When databases are digitized, the risk and scale of breaches and identity theft are also elevated. Ensuring data protection, inclusion, and user rights are therefore fundamental to the success of a digital identity system in the digital era.

Governments, businesses, and civil society actors must think through several important questions as they shape the course of digital identity programmes. These include addressing potential misuse of the digital identity system, approaches to safeguard user privacy and ensure control over personal data, and how to accelerate implementation and adoption.

With an increase in the use of mobile devices, smart technology, and big data, it’s clear that digital transformation is a fundamental part of how public services will be delivered in the UAE.

As we see further investments to close the identification gap and meet the requirements of identity in the digital age, we have an unparalleled opportunity to build next-generation systems that put people and privacy at the center. This includes digital identities that are non-exclusionary, protect personal information, provide people with greater control over their data, and respond to the needs of the population and different public and private sector institutions.

Mohamed Abubacker is the managing director – Technology Delivery Lead in the Middle East at Accenture

Read: UAE PASS to be sole digital identity to access government services in Dubai

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