The Austrian Ministry of the Interior has introduced the digital driver’s license. It is the first form of identification that can be used on the new digital ID and verification platform, eID. The free eID app enables authentication of someone’s identity using smartphones and is currently available in both the iTunes and Google Play stores. Once the eID app is downloaded to a smartphone, users can register for a digital ID and upload their existing driver’s license into the app.
The digital driver’s license is only the first of what the country expects will be many forms of digital identification cards and documents available on smartphones. While the digital license is currently only valid in Austria, it is based on eIDAS technology that will be used within the EU in the future.
Developing a standardized digital ID is one of the EU’s ongoing 21st century goals. Beyond Europe, verified and secure identification in the digital space is sought for any number of online services and communities. Verified online IDs will be useful Verified online IDs will be useful for verified purchases (e.g., alcohol, pharmaceuticals, banking), protecting accounts, and access to age-restricted content, and much more.
With this need as a backdrop, the initiative by the Austrian Ministry of the Interior represents an interesting opportunity for MNOs. Widespread implementation of digitally verified identity requires the development of a system which is reliable, secure, and broadly accessible. There will need to be significant customer service elements – with call-in or potentially physical agents available to help with documents and review materials. This type of challenge may require both more real-world support than tech giants (i.e., Alphabet, Meta, etc.) typically have available, and a greater level of digital fluency than most government agencies are prepared to deliver.
In the face of this challenge, telcos could be in a position to offer the bridge. Since they are more heavily regulated than the tech companies and already have cooperative relationships with regulatory agencies, operators could be ideally situated partner with their national governments in the development and deployment of digital IDs. If successful, becoming the digital gatekeeper for these kinds of initiatives could lead to a significant new revenue stream for network providers.