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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Speed up the Phil ID system

“For all these great benefits to happen, there must be broadband connectivity at all points of transaction”

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It’s been over four years since the Philippine Identification System Act (Republic Act 11055) was enacted into law to establish a single national ID to rule them all for all Filipinos and resident aliens.

The national ID is envisioned to be the valid proof of identity that will simplifying all public and private transactions.

To quote the PhilSys website, the PhilD will provide proof of identity “as a means of simplifying public and private transactions, and shall be a social and economic platform that promotes seamless social service delivery and strengthens financial inclusion for both public and private services.”

Last month, I received what’s supposed to be a temporary national ID which is a paper print out to be cut out and plastic laminated to look like an ID card.

It has my photo, name, and QR code on the front side and some basic information on the back side. There are also instructions on how to authenticate – which I assume is for the party where one presents it for identification.

I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit as the size will definitely not fit into my wallet or card holder and how easy it would be to scan and change the name and photo and make counterfeits that might be used for fraud.

But I guess that’s what the authentications instructions are for.

I haven’t tried presenting it as I haven’t encountered any identification check asking for it.

Nowadays, security checks look for the vaccination certification and the usual valid company or government-issued ID.

What would be more functional is a mobile version announced to be operational early this 2023, hopefully.

As a convenor of consumer advocacy group CitizenWatch Philippines, we have been strong proponents of systemic digital transformation long before the pandemic shock forced us all to embrace the power of digital technologies and access to fast and stable broadband connectivity as essential tools for sustainable economic growth.

A secure and trusted national identification system is a key element of digital transactions.

Verification of one’s identity is fundamental in the fulfillment of any transaction whether you are the buyer or seller.

For financial institutions, to know your customer (KYC) is part of the strict rules and procedures required by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

As e-commerce and social media platforms have made it easy to do peer-to-peer transactions online there is a risk of being victimized by scammers peddling falsely represented goods.

I’ve been a victim a couple of times and have learned to do some due diligence digging into seller ratings and reviews before committing to buy.

With a national ID integrated in the virtual marketplace, there will be strong trust between online merchant and consumers which sets up a booming e-commerce ecosystem.

Law enforcement will also be enhanced as only criminal elements will want their identities concealed and will be isolated from the ecosystem.

Speaking of addressing online scams, the enforcement of the SIM Registration Act which aims to address this problem will also be facilitated by linking each SIM to a user’s PhilID, making each call and SMS message traceable to the individual subscriber.

According the NTC only 11,219,722 SIM cards registered as of January 2, 2023. Had the PhilID been already operational, this may have already been done by now.

The most important but not so well understood challenge in rolling out the PhilID is that it is not the physical card to replace all the valid IDs we need to lug around but the database and digital verification system that will enable each point of transaction to immediately authenticate a person’s identity.

With the advancements and low cost of biometric authentication technologies, a physical card won’t really be needed.

How I’d love to one day walk up to a retail establishment’s cashier, be biometrically scanned, greeted by my name, and complete my purchase via e-payment app in less than a minute.

Imagine that kind of efficiency happening when applying for government permits, licenses, paying taxes, and how fast front line services would be.

Imagine how PhilID can be integrated in an e-health database and eliminate the hassle of filling out the same forms again and your health data linked with Philhealth and other medical insurance.

This technology is not new and is already being used by consumers in their smart phones and laptops where identification is verified and transactions fulfilled with one-time pins (OTP), and authentication codes in less than a minute.

Biometrics can be an alternative mode or added layer for secure transactions.

However, for all these great benefits to happen, there must be broadband connectivity at all points of transaction.

This again raises the urgency to expand and upgrade the country’s digital infrastructure to a truly nationwide level and at least at par with global standards.

This is a serious readiness gap that will need more aggressive public-private partnerships with the digital and telecommunications industry.

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