Digital ID Keeps Moving Forward

by Sun Bay Paper Contributor

Australia will be introducing a Digital ID on December 1, 2024.

This announcement coincided with the sixth annual “Goalkeepers Report,” which emphasizes the urgency of meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. One of these goals, SDG 16.9, aims for universal legal digital identity, including birth registration, by 2030. The push is to replace outdated systems with digital solutions for the billion people currently without ID.

At the same time, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested $1.27 billion (US$840 million) in digital identity initiatives, including $200 million (US$132 million) for digital public infrastructure such as digital IDs and civil registry databases.

The Gates Foundation is focusing on MOSIP, an open-source digital identity platform, and has previously highlighted the role of biometrics in equitable resource distribution in their 2019 Goalkeepers Data Report.

In the USA, the Enhanced ID program is gaining momentum. Enhanced IDs, which comply with the REAL ID Act, are now required for air travel and access to federal facilities. These IDs include additional security features and can serve as proof of identity and citizenship for travel between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and some Caribbean countries. The aim is to enhance security and streamline identification processes, but the move also raises concerns about privacy and government surveillance.

In Iceland, digital ID integrates various services, from banking to medical records. Without a digital ID, accessing essential services like power, phones, or home purchases is nearly impossible. Privacy concerns are significant, as personal information is publicly accessible.

Leon Hill, an Australian expat in Iceland, suggests that dual passports or e-residency in Estonia or Palau might offer some escape from these digital restrictions. However, digital nomad visas in these countries do not equate to citizenship and come with their own limitations.

Estonia, dealing with political tensions and a banking scandal, might not be the safest option for financial security. Palau’s e-residency, which doesn’t allow physical residency, also raises concerns about banking reliability, as evidenced by the Palau International Bank Limited’s regulatory issues.

The Australian government, through various international agreements, can track financial information globally and potentially freeze assets, similar to Canada’s response to the truckers’ protest.

Buying property in Greece for residency might seem attractive, but from August, the investment requirement will increase significantly. Even there, digital and biometric checks are mandatory.

Although the Australian government claims Digital ID won’t be mandatory, historical precedents like the Australia Card proposal suggest that once such systems are established, they tend to expand in scope.

For those valuing free speech and financial autonomy, alternatives might include advocating for independent financial institutions, like a hypothetical bank started by Elon Musk.