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Trusted Digital Identities Will Make Online Transactions Safer, Easier

Mobile driver’s licenses, digital passports, electronic birth certificates and other government-issued digital credentials are building blocks for stronger identity verification.

As we put this special identity issue together, I was struck by the fact that as a nation we often do digital identity verification the hard way. Government benefit programs, banks, retailers and others cobble together bits of information about us to determine if we are who we say we are online.

What if some of that information was more authoritative and easier to find?

That’s the idea behind a new class of digital identity credentials like mobile driver’s licenses. Unlike plastic cards and paper documents, these credentials would work smoothly in an online world. They would be backed by sophisticated biometrics, encryption technologies and other tools that make them extremely hard to steal or fake.

Experts envision an array of trusted digital identity credentials and platforms — mobile driver’s licenses, digital passports, electronic birth certificates, information verification services from the IRS and Social Security Administration, and more — that would help us prove our identity during remote transactions.

These credentials would reduce identity theft — which siphons billions of dollars annually from the nation’s economy — while protecting consumers’ privacy and pocketbooks. Not only would better digital identities safeguard the current economy, they may expand it. One study from the McKinsey Global Institute estimated adoption of digital IDs could unlock economic value equal to 4% of the nation’s GDP.

But as you’ll see in a special issue of Government Technology, there are issues to resolve and multiple perspectives to consider as we move in this direction. Meanwhile, the U.S. lags many of its peer nations in establishing digital identity strategies and platforms. There’s work to be done and no time to waste because, ultimately, America needs a new identity.

Thanks for joining us to explore this vital topic.