NDI Bill for ensuring digital inclusion, accessibility and equity

NDI Bill for ensuring digital inclusion, accessibility and equity

The National Digital Identity (NDI) Bill of Bhutan would be tabled and discussed during the forthcoming National Assembly session. While digital identity (DI) comes with several benefits, an official from GovTech, the agency responsible for the NDI, said that the proposed Bill would address issues ranging from empowerment to trust and others. 

According to the official, in terms of empowerment, individuals will have sovereignty over their own personal data. “They can decide as to whom, when and where their digital credentials or data needs to be shared. This will increase and empower individuals with data autonomy,” he said.

Underlining the Bill’s connection with inclusion, he said the proposed NDI Bill is drafted to ensure that Bhutan walks towards digital inclusivity, accessibility and equity. Irrespective of people’s socio-economic status, or any form of dispositions, the digital identity in a digital sphere will be provided to them.

On interoperability he added that it is crucial to allow individuals and agencies to conduct businesses within the national boundaries. “While doing so, data is involved. The proposed NDI Bill allows data autonomy and in the same line, also allows them to carry their own data beyond, given that they fulfil the conditions mandated,” he said.

On privacy issues, he said the NDI ecosystem is built on top of cutting edge technology, utilising the strongest encryption algorithms available at this stage. On top, there is no single point of failure. The proposed NDI Bill recommends the usage of such technologies and infrastructure to ensure there is no data leakage and data sharing is consensus based,” he underlined. 

Another facet of the NDI is trust and he said that trust in a digital identity sphere depends not only on the technology but also on the legal frameworks that empower and strengthen the rights of individuals and agencies in management of digital credentials and data. “With the proposed NDI Bill, the NDI ecosystem and the individuals and agencies utilising the ecosystem to suffice their need and purposes will have enhanced transparency and accountability fosters public trust. The Act will legitimise digital credentials (Digital identity) and digital transactions fully,” he said. 

Apart from access to government and other related services and benefits, he underscored that the proposed NDI Bill is also intended to promote and boost the digital economy by promoting secured online transactions of digital credentials and data. “The processes involved in applying for telecommunication services, opening accounts in the bank, checking individual health data will be available through one’s own personal device. Because the root of trust depends on individual identity, identity theft and fraud detection will be much easier,” he said, adding that the bill will synergise with the current transformation process by legitimising the digital verifiable credentials and digital transaction end to end unlike most of our current online services or systems. “The bill empowers digital identity at the same level of physical Identity cards both in terms of usage and legality. By providing a secure identity of users (people and legal entities) in the digital space, they will be empowered to do any digital transaction in a fully trusted ecosystem. All digital transaction will be legitimised – verifiable credentials (Digital identities),” he added. 

On challenges the official  said technology implementation comes with challenges. “However, having a robust legal framework to empower the development and usage of digital credentials and data within and beyond the national borders will legitimise the National Digital Identity infrastructure and the services. This will also allow for mutual recognition of digital credentials outside Bhutan,” he said, adding that it is important to note that the proposed NDI Bill does not circumvent any domestic legislation that is already in place. “Instead it is complementary to existing laws and regulations in the country. In case of technological implications, GovTech Agency is doing everything to ensure that adoption and usage of NDI is realised by all sections of the society,” he added.

He further mentioned that without the NDI Act, digital identity (Credentials) cannot be claimed as trusted credentials to be fully used for digital transactions. “The third-party systems may not fully accept the NDI’s products and services without the legal framework, the usage of the NDI ecosystem will diminish,” he said.

Sherab Dorji from Thimphu