Following In Estonia’s Footsteps: Blueprints for a Successful Digital ID

This guest blog was contributed by Kaarel Kotkas, CEO and Founder of Veriff.

The need to facilitate travel safely and securely is paramount with digital IDs that serve as virtual passports and vaccine certifications likely becoming the future of global identity verification. However, every ambitious technological advancement comes with its fair share of data security and fraud risks. Not only have global fraud rates continued to rise since the dawn of the pandemic, but we’ve missed golden opportunities to instill unified solutions (such as COVID vaccine passports) that would keep both our digital and physical selves healthy and secure.

Everyone is eager to return to a sense of normalcy, from cabin-fever ridden travelers to businesses yearning for pre-pandemic crowds. As organizations develop their own reopening practices, some digital identity verification myths and challenges must be corrected. Digital passports offer unparalleled global convenience and security, creating an entryway to the future of digital identity. However, while digital IDs and health passports represent new opportunities for widespread adoption of enhanced digital identification, these technologies are not without their pitfalls. The challenges associated with implementing this technology are hefty, which is why observing the current leaders’ practices in the digital space (such as Estonia) can provide some much needed guidance.


Though small, Estonia and its modest population of 1.3 million people are leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to secure e-identity. With online access to voting, paying taxes, viewing healthcare records, and receiving government services, residents joke that the only thing you can’t do online is get married, as Estonia is truly the land of e-everything. As the country has emerged as a tech startup breeding ground, the expansion of digital identification technology has remained part of the nation’s fabric.


Estonia remains unmatched in the realm of adopting highly developed national ID-card systems. The seamless e-ID functions better than just a physical or photographic ID because it provides access to all government services. While other countries have issued national IDs, every person living in Estonia is eligible for this government digital ID due to mass adoption within the nation since 2001.


The EU Commission plans that by 2030, all key public services should be available online and 80% citizens should use an eID solution. In comparison, 98% of Estonians already have a digital ID card and 70% of the population use an ID-card regularly for public services making physical IDs, passports, or the United State’s Social Security identification practices seem outdated and inept at protection against fraud. Any nation looking to keep a seat at the digital table will need to embrace the strides Estonia has made with e-identity and enable processes that make the adoption of these services as smooth as possible.


With businesses embracing digital transformation and globalization taking hold, billions of people will need access to a fully digital world sooner than we think. Government-issued national ID documents are the best that we currently have to identify a person, but they have their limitations as they’re not all created equally. Depending on the country that issued the ID, people have different access to services. To unlock the opportunities for more people, we need to create a secure digital identity that can be easily verified. The future of identity verification goes beyond simple document authentication check and lies with AI driven biometrics and data crosslinking.


We’re entering a new realm of global identity that is more secure and harder to duplicate than ever before, offering a stronger alternative to verifying online transactions, preventing fraud and ultimately permitting restrictionless movement around the world. Between this and continuous know-your-customer (KYC) verification (authentication at every transaction), communities will have multiple avenues to access real-time, effective identification where and when it matters most.


As the world works to shake free from the grips of the pandemic and digital IDs become more prevalent, global citizens must be vigilant of the new security threats that have emerged. The fraud prevention industry is now forever changed as this shift in digital identity practices continues to take hold. In order to balance the challenges of government-issued identification with the advantages of global digital identities, other countries should follow Estonia’s lead in establishing a successful digital ID. By focusing on setting equal infrastructure standards across countries (the Euro provides an ideal blueprint for how this could be done), the EU can empower real change in the identity market. The hope for a unified, global identity may seem like a castle in the air, but it’s a step we must take to ensure security for all.


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