Some California drivers may cringe at the thought of going to a Department of Motor Vehicles field office to take care car or license issues. Now they can avoid that step with an on online tool at their disposal — the option to establish identities through the DMV website to access more Web-based services.

Last fall, DMV set up an identity and access management system with its partner IBM to allow users to set up a user name and password on its website.

Since then, more than 1 million users have created online identities. The rapid popularity is a surprise to the DMV, which didn’t anticipate the quick response.

“The rate at which we were establishing identities, it was faster than American Express,” said Bernard Soriano, the DMV CIO, on Tuesday, May 10, at Government Technology Conference West in Sacramento, Calif. “It was faster than a lot of private companies.”

Once users create an identity for the site, they can access services such as driver record, vehicle registration information and registration renewal reminders. In the future, the DMV is slated to roll out more applications accessible through an online user identity.

“The most requested item from our customers is their driving record,” said DMV Director George Valverde in a statement. “We have not only made their record easily and securely accessible to our customers, we added many more features that customers can access through their very own personalized online DMV account.”

Soriano said it was important for the department to utilize attributes such as a driver’s license and Social Security number to verify a user’s identity. Because a person already provides that information to the DMV when obtaining a driver’s license, the department can verify the user’s identity based on those attributes.

“One of the things that we really, really needed to focus on was absolutely ensuring the person who is interacting with us is who they say they are,” Soriano said.

The DMV plans to make the website and the identity feature more user-friendly. Soriano said older people tend to have more difficulty with the site. When the identity feature was first introduced, the DMV’s call center was flooded with calls from users asking how to set up their online accounts.

The California Employment Development Department  (EDD) is in the process of developing a similar identification access management system. In the future, the DMV and the EDD will integrate their systems so that users can access services from both departments by using one identity, Soriano said.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.