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Estonia’s Journey with ID Cards and Digital Wallets

John Wise

ByJohn Wise

May 23, 2024

Estonia is holding onto its physical identity cards until the European Union Digital Identity wallet becomes a reality. Earlier this year, the Estonian Ministry of Interior suggested making ID cards optional, citing increased reliance on the country’s numerous digital solutions.

However, this proposal faced pushback from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications. Currently, Estonians are mandated by law to possess a digital ID card, while mobile IDs remain voluntary.

If the requirement for ID cards were to be removed, some residents might find themselves without any form of digital identification, according to reports by Estonian Public Broadcasting. It’s worth noting that passports are also not obligatory in Estonia.

Digitization in Estonia

Madis Tapupere, who is in charge of Estonia’s digital state technologies, highlighted the historical significance of the mandatory ID card requirement, stating, that ID cared being mandatory increased their adoption rapidly, taking Estonia’s digital state to new heights.

This highlights the pivotal role that mandatory ID cards played in driving the widespread adoption and success of Estonia’s digital infrastructure, laying the foundation for its renowned digital state.

Tapupere also noted that certain aspects of Estonia’s digital identity credentials will no longer be in use light of forthcoming EU regulations on online identifications. Specifically, once these regulations are finalized, Estonia’s Mobile-ID will no longer be viable for digital signatures. Mobile-ID, along with Smart-ID, serves as one of the two alternative ID methods to the traditional ID card offered in Estonia.

Multiple Digital ID Solutions May be Needed

Tapupere suggests that Estonia will require more than one digital identity solution, indicating that ID cards, produced by Idemia, are likely to remain as a backup method. To ensure their continued relevance, Estonia can utilize Idemia’s JPatch technology, enabling remote upgrades of embedded software in eID documents.

This flexibility allows for seamless updates to ID cards as needed, ensuring their compatibility and functionality within the evolving digital identity ecosystem, including digital wallets.

Idemia has discussed the workings of JPatch and highlighted the significance of field updates in a recent post, stressing on the importance of staying ahead of technological advancements to maintain the effectiveness of digital identity solutions.

Out of Estonia’s population of 1.3 million, approximately 1.1 million individuals own an ID card. Passport ownership is also widespread, with around 840,000 people possessing one. However, digital IDs have seen different levels of uptake, with 244,000 individuals using Mobile-ID and nearly 700,000 people opting for Smart-ID.

In a recent interview, Gregory Kuhlmey, the digital identity program manager at Idemia, expressed his belief that various digital wallets are likely to persist alongside national wallets, despite the apparent convenience of a single wallet solution.

He emphasized that achieving a comprehensive solution to address all aspects of digital identity simultaneously is not feasible. He believes that national wallets are designed to serve as a benchmark, prioritizing high security standards even if it means sacrificing some usability features.

John Wise

John Wise

John Wise is a seasoned fintech analyst and writer with over a decade of experience in the field. With a Master’s degree in Computer Science from MIT, he specializes in simplifying complex financial technologies for a broad audience. At FinTech Service Reviews, John provides insightful and thorough reviews, helping readers navigate the evolving landscape of financial technology with ease.

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