Insights & Analyses

Singapore plans new digital identity program modeled after Estonia

February 27, 2017

Inspired by a comprehensive digital identity system in Estonia, officials in Singapore are looking to revamp their national IDs, potentially allowing citizens simpler access to government services, financial transactions and more.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke last week at Sequoia Capital’s “Camp Sequoia” event, revealing that the country is looking to build a successor to its current Singpass program, established in 2003.

“[Singpass] really does not do all the things we need it to do, and it does not extend to private sector services,” he said, as quoted by GovInsider. “It does not even extend to hospitals which are restructured, semi-privatized.”

Singapore envisions a system akin to Estonia, where citizens have access to over 1,000 government services through smart cards. The Estonian ID card can be used for public transportation, electronic voting, travel, and online banking.

Secured with 2,048-bit public key encryption, it can be used with systems both public and private — something Singapore hopes to replicate with its own program.

As part of a broader initiative, Singapore is also looking to simplify its web services, making it easier for citizens to find what they are looking for online. The country is also toying with a public bug bounty program, where people could be rewarded for discovering flaws in software and services.

Starting this year, Singapore began collecting citizen iris scans for identity cards and related purposes. Singapore’s National Registration Act now mandates iris scans alongside photographs and fingerprints.