As in every developed country, cars and trucks are critical to the smooth and efficient operation of the economy — getting commuters to work, moving goods from city to city — and road related testing, licencing, and enforcement make up an important part of the responsibilities of provincial, regional, and municipal governments. Due to the importance placed on its accuracy and authenticity, the driver’s licence has become one of our society’s core and most trusted pieces of identification, used for everything from operating a vehicle, to buying alcohol, to registering for a bank account.
Yet today’s system has weak points: physical licence cards can be faked, paper permits can be lost, and much time and effort is spent on tracking and storing enforcement mechanisms like speeding tickets. A more effective and efficient system would benefit drivers and their governments, as well as those businesses that rely on authentic customer documentation to stay within the law. Digital identity promises to be a critical element in any new system. Drivers and residents would be the first beneficiaries. Getting a licence would be faster and more convenient, and a digital driver’s licence housed on a mobile device would enable faster interactions with government and business, as well as remote registration for services and accounts. What’s more, user security would be significantly improved through the abstraction of personally identifying information that need not be seen by other people in the course of enabling a simple transaction.
Governments would benefit too. The cost and effort of printing, mailing, collecting, sorting, and archiving paper forms and paper tickets would be markedly reduced. Cash flows should improve to the extent that immediate, digitally-enabled payments for penalties can be incentivized. More rapid completion of traffic stops and less paperwork would free both in-field and in-office resources for more productive tasks. Efficiencies would likely accrue to the wider economy, too: banks, for example, would be able to offer online account opening without having to verify customer documents in person, while still complying with “Know Your Customer” regulations.
In the following sections we’ll review the five guiding principles that we think should lie at the foundation of any broadly-adopted digital identity system, and we’ll look at three examples of how its capabilities could help create a more convenient, more secure, and more efficient driver’s licencing ecosystem — with benefits for all.