One of the main goals of the recently developed Bhutan National Digital Identity (NDI) is to enhance digital inclusion, which it means enabling the public to digitally do any work right at their fingertips with the help of their smartphones without having to physically make rounds.
To ensure digital inclusion for all, Bhutan NDI is developing a biometric verification cryptography that can be used by individuals by visiting nearby set-up counters. This will be launched at a later stage of the product design, according to Lobzang Jamtsho, Chief ICT officer of the Government Technology (GovTech) Agency.
In addition, he said that Bhutan NDI is looking to integrate voice assistance and dual language, that is, Dzongkha and English to ensure digital inclusion. For instance, Bhutan NDI is currently available to Bhutanese citizens living abroad provided that their CID cards are processed and even better if they have given fingerprint and facial images when they are in the country.
“They can come on-board Bhutan NDI and use the wallet for all the G2C Services and other business services that have integrated with Bhutan NDI,” Lobzang said, adding that the wallet will facilitate secure and seamless access to services from anywhere and anytime while meeting the necessary regulatory requirements for authentication, verification, and KYC processes.
“Similarly, expats who hold work permits or visas can also on-board to NDI and avail any eligible online services.”
Due to the subject being new, coupled with limited resources and expertise, it was a challenging task. There was the need to understand the nuances of decentralized technology in specifics, and then the larger philosophy of Self-Sovereign Identity. The other challenge was to work with limited and fluctuating human resources with a high employee attrition rate.
“It has been challenging to integrate with business partners as it requires our integration partners to update their IT infrastructure and align their legacy systems with emerging digital frameworks, and also requires them to reengineer their business process” Lobzang Jamtsho said.
“If the benefits are not tangible, citizens are not eager to embrace new technology. Therefore, along with an enhanced User Interface (UI) of both Bhutan NDI wallets and benefits provided by service providers, we will be focusing on expanding our education campaigns to advocate for digital privacy, trust, security, and individual consent around data sharing.”
With Bhutan NDI, individuals can experience remote on-boarding on various platforms and online services without having to visit physical offices, reducing both time and cost. With lowered need for face to face interaction, transportation, and energy consumption, Bhutan NDI will significantly reduce pollution and carbon emissions. Further, users will no longer be required to remember multiple login credentials while logging in to various online platforms.
Most importantly, the product ensures the highest level of data security and privacy and also reduces the risk of identity theft and fraud even for businesses, organizations, and service providers by leveraging Bhutan NDI’s trust services. There is a huge potential to improve delivery of services. “The verification process that happens through Bhutan NDI is designed in such a way that an individual does not have to disclose personal information that is not required for the said interaction or transaction,” Lobzang said.
Additionally, unlike the OTP-based authentication process where the telecommunication provider knows exactly which organization (bank, insurance company) is verifying, Bhutan NDI’s authentication and verification keeps the user at the center of all digital interactions, allowing individuals to share a verified credential (phone number) with a verifier (bank) without the issuer (Tashi Cell) knowing which service provider the user is interacting with.
Further, there are many clauses in the NDI Act 2023 that protect digital identities. The NDI administrative body will be liable if there is a significant attack or breach on the NDI ecosystem which the NDI administrative body or NDI company fails to appraise the ecosystem players i.e., users, issuers, verifiers, governance bodies within a specified time frame.
However, if the attack happens on an individual’s edge wallet or device due to carelessness which includes sharing their pin with others, not informing the NDI company of loss of device, amongst others, then the individual will be liable for any breaches on their personal Bhutan NDI wallet.
Sherab Dorji from Thimphu