Adoption dichotomy shows North America behind its southern neighbors
The rise of eID credentials is a trend that’s made landfall with countries in virtually every corner of the planet – but not every corner. The reach of eID is yet to completely saturate the globe, as evidenced by the next installment of the re:ID eID series.
The Americas lie in direct opposition to one another in terms of their implementation of national eID credentials. South America has a stable of countries, eight as of 2015, with eID credentials. North America, however, is yet to climb aboard. Central America and the Caribbean falls in the middle both geographically as well as in the adoption of eID.
Acuity Market Intelligence’s “Global National eID Industry Report,” estimates that annual eID volumes will rise in the Americas through 2017 at which point adoption will taper off – a similar arc that holds true for other global regions. Drivers for eID in South and Central America center on fraud reduction and security, with infrastructure, enrollment and centralized registries being the major challenges.
Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room – North America is not doing much in the way of eID. “Mexico had ambitious plans that have stalled, and the U.S. is years, if not decades, away from any kind of national ID,” says Maxine Most, principal and founder of Acuity Market Intelligence and author of the eID Industry Report. “Canada may be slightly closer, but not by much. There’s a clear cultural resistance to national IDs in North America.”
There’s a clear cultural resistance to national ID in North America that we don’t see to the south
It’s all about the driver license in North America. “There is no federal-level ID card issued to U.S. citizens nor is there one being planned,” says Mizan Rahman, founder, CEO and CTO of M2SYS. “Driver licenses issued by states and territorial governments have become the de facto identity cards and are used for many identification purposes.”
Mexico initiated a national ID system for the country’s 110 million citizens in 2011. “They were building a biometric national registry that included a facial image, two iris images and ten print AFIS for all citizens above the age of four. A digital signature would also be captured,” says Most. “Initial enrollments began in 2011 with children from the age of four to 17, with adult enrollment slated to begin in 2013.”
But, as of September 2013, just 15% of the country’s 25.7 million children had been enrolled, and there are no reports of adult enrollment proceeding.
In North America eID has been all but completely spurned, Rahman says. “Privacy and protection of civil liberties coupled with a deep misunderstanding of biometric and eID technologies are the largest and most difficult challenges faced,” he says. “Until the general public becomes more accepting of biometrics, eID programs in North America will never materialize.”
South and Central America
Standing in stark contrast, South and Central America has seen a solid number of eID implementations.
In the region, there is a need for governments to serve a more sophisticated citizen electronically, says Edgar Betts, associate director at the Smart Card Alliance’s Latin America and the Caribbean chapter. “Most of the national identity cards in the Americas have evolved from paper-based credentials to more sophisticated documents that incorporate multiple security features to avoid counterfeiting,” he explains.
Another driver for eID credentials is the region’s close proximity between national neighbors. “Easing travel between countries using an ID card is driving adoption, as many countries have bi- or multi-lateral agreements enabling citizens to cross borders without passports,” says Stefan Barbu, head of ID sales and marketing Americas at NXP Semiconductors. “The compatibility with the ICAO infrastructure for electronic documents is both a driver and an enabler.”
Still, the main drivers in the region are law enforcement and security, followed by reduction of fraud and abuse. “Several countries have strong policies from government to stimulate the development of the ‘digital economy,’ and the adoption of eID is a fundamental component,” says Barbu. “As an example, in countries like Brazil and Costa Rica there is widespread use of PKI-enabled cards for electronic signature.”
Another country that has made strong progress on the eID front is Guatemala. Guatemala issued a polycarbonate chip-based ID card that had full rollout in 2011. To accompany the credential, Guatemala also created a new civil registry with fingerprint and facial biometrics. The program uses match-on-card biometric capability, contains an electronic signature, and supports e-identity, e-purse and e-vote applications, says Most.
Ecuador boasts another sophisticated eID program with multi-application cards deployed to all citizens. NXP worked with Ecuador to deliver the project, which uses NXP’s SmartMX platform of dual interface chips and applications including eGovernment, banking and public transport, Barbu says.
The country of 15 million is deploying a number of digital public services to citizens, companies and organizations. In addition to traditional ID vetting use cases, Ecuador’s eID cards enable citizens to travel inside the Andean Community, perform electronic signature operations, and access social benefit and welfare services provided by the Ecuadorian government.