Exclusive: Sri Lanka to launch national digital identity

Ambitious project to give every citizen a digital identity.

The Sri Lankan Government is building a national digital identity scheme, the CEO of the country’s ICT Agency has told GovInsider. “Every citizen would be given a digital identity, and that would ensure that citizens will be able to log-in, and will be able to transact and sign documents digitally,” Muhunthan Canagey said. Every citizen will get a smart card which will their identity information, which can also be used for payments and digital signing. For instance, they will be able to register online for social welfare and receive the payments directly to digital wallets. “That way the government also knows that the funds are being transferred and the ultimate beneficiary receives it,” he said. It will also allow them to digitally sign and access documents. Birth certificates and licences will be stored digitally and citizens would be able to share them with organisations. “Other agencies within government plus outside will not have to waste time verifying such documents, and delay the process of delivering the service to the citizen,” Canagey said. Both government agencies and businesses will be able to integrate ICTA’s digital identity product with their services. “We are building it such that authentication can be provided as a service”, he said. Authentication could range from biometrics such fingerprints and iris scans to the plain old username and passwords. The Sri Lankan project is “one of the largest tenders in this whole space for national digital identity”, he said. The project would cost over US$100 million, he estimates, and 20 million people will have digital identities within three years. The tender for the project has been closed and bids are currently being evaluated by the government. Citizens are to start enrolling for digital identities this year. Image by f. ermert; CC BY 2.0