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Singapore Accelerates Digital IC in SingPass to Access Public Services

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SingPass is known as a secure and convenient means for people to access government digital services using their fingerprint, face recognition, or a 6-digit passcode. It was launched in October 2018. Users can also use the shortcuts to access their MyInfo Profile, conduct in-person identification verification via QR codes, and access regularly used digital services. 3.5 million SingPass users have turned on two-factor authentication so far (2FA). 2FA is a two-step login that is used for secure digital transactions.

The SingPass app has served Singaporeans significantly, and the government has made numerous updates to improve the platform. The Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) and the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) announced that starting November 1, all government agencies would accept digital ICs when people utilise or apply for public services in person.

Apart from patient registration, the digital IC can be used to make appointments at public clinics, register for admission into government buildings, borrow books from public libraries, acquire passports, and reserve Housing Board flats and pick up keys.

There will be some exceptions for the time being, such as when the law needs physical identification documents. Marriage registration, hotel check-ins, and criminal investigations under the Criminal Procedure Code or the National Registration Act are only a few examples. The government is working on amending laws to formalise the usage of digital ICs for these purposes, according to SNDGO and GovTech.

In a media interview, Mr Tan Chee Hau, the director of SNDGO’s planning and prioritising department, said the government is in talks with various private sector sectors about using the digital IC to sign up for new telco plans or register bank accounts, among other things.

Businesses will no longer need to photograph people’s identity documents for their records if they use the digital IC and other Singpass capabilities. Singpass has a function called Verify that allows users to scan a QR code and communicate their personal information to an organisation. The digital IC, which is a virtual reproduction of the plastic document, contains a person’s most recent photo given to the government to assist in visual checks, as well as a barcode that can be scanned for personal information.

The virtual document has privacy and security safeguards built-in. The Singpass app, for example, only displays the last four characters of a person’s IC number, which can only be exposed by a fingerprint scan, facial scan, or passcode. The digital IC also has an animated lion head crest which prevents the image from being tampered with or spoofed using screenshots of it.

The digital IC, on the other hand, will not completely replace the physical document. If an IC holder misplaces his plastic card, he must inform the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and request a physical replacement. From a broader smart-nation standpoint, he believes the digital IC demonstrates how technology can benefit people and improve their daily lives.

SNDGO and GovTech have been working with governmental entities over the last few months to ramp up efforts to have the virtual document acknowledged. According to Mr. Tan, the move was a gradual one that took public feedback into account.

OpenGov Asia reported, under an initial 12-month pilot, Singapore’s 3rd largest bank confirmed that they had launched a programme allowing customers to sign electronic documents using the Singpass app. The bank said it will first test the use of electronic signature services with a set of its retail and corporate customers.

Some of the transactions the pilot will cover include forms for individual wealth planning services and other corporate applications. After the pilot ends, the service will extend to more of its products and services for retail and wholesale segments in Singapore.

Ultimately, 97% of Singapore citizens and permanent residents aged 15 and above have Singpass accounts. There are more than 3.2 million Singpass app users and about 300 million personal and corporate Singpass transactions every year.


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