Digital ID ‘will be boon to economy’

09.04.18

A national digital ID platform is coming soon, and its arrival will allow people online to open bank account, apply for loans and enjoy the services of other businesses and government agencies, says a key developer.

The national digital identification infrastructure will bring the Thai economy to another level due to expected massive cost savings and enhancement of efficiencies for citizens, businesses and government, Anuchit Anuchitanukul told The Nation in an exclusive interview

“I believe it will upgrade our country and our economy to the next level,” said Anuchit, an advisor to the national committee responsible for the development of the national digital identification platform.   

Anuchit, who is also head of the process and product improvement and alternative channels group at Kiatnakin Bank, claimed that the platform would robust and resilient and is expected to be better than Singapore’s digital ID model.

Still under development, the national infrastructure system is expected to be tested in June with pilot services starting in the third quarter of this year.

The new digital infrastructure would eliminate the need to submit paper copies of their ID when contracting for services with businesses and government agencies. It would also do away of people needing to visit business or government offices in person. As related works go online it would result in a cost reduction for every party.

Main actors in the platform comprise three groups: the party giving service to the user, an identity provider authenticating the user and the authoritative source holding the user’s information.

The system begins with a user who wants to get service online from a business or government. For example, someone applying for a mortgage loan from Bank A could use a mobile phone to request a loan.

Bank A will send a request asking for verification of the loan applicant’s identity to the identity provider which might be another bank or perhaps government agencies. Bank A will also ask for the record of the loan applicant’s credit history from the National Credit Bureau (NCB), which is acting as the authoritative source. The loan applicant must confirm their identity and also give a consent to the NCB to release the credit information to Bank A.

After Bank A processes all information received from the identity provider and authoritative source, it would decide whether or not to approve a housing loan for the applicant.

Regarding concerns over cybersecurity, Anuchit said the Thai digital ID infrastructure would be flexible and resilient, allowing identity providers to use various methods such as facial recognition technology, touch ID, smart cards or pin codes.

In Singapore, there is only a single ID provider – the Singapore government. That single-provider approach makes Singapore prone to cyber attack, potentially causing the system to crash, said Anuchit.  

Regarding the possibility of information breach, Anuchit noted that Thailand’s law protects people’s information in the current system. A bank, for example, cannot access a client’s credit history from the NCB without client consent. For the online system, the law would still protect bank client information but it make the process more transparent as the bank would ask for consent via the electronic platform.

By the third quarter of this year, 11 pilot services will be available online for testing via the national digital ID platform.

These services will include opening a bank account for both individuals and companies; opening an investment account with the Stock Exchange of Thailand’s “FundConnext”, a technology-enabled fund service platform to process buying and selling of mutual fund orders; opening an account for share trading with brokerage firms; applying for an online loan from a bank; reporting online credit; opening an e-wallet account; buying life assurance and insurance; applying for student loans and filing the annual tax return.

Banks are likely the first group to provide online services related to the digital ID platform as they have already invested a lot of money in the computer system, said Anuchit.