The pandemic has brought an unprecedented and unexpected acceleration of Canada’s digital transformation, with life moving online from both a work and personal perspective. Working from home became the norm, not the exception. Purchasing everything moved online at an unprecedented rate. With this giant leap to an online economy, both government and elements of corporate Canada have been working towards modernizing our citizen identification – something the pandemic has kickstarted into a higher speed.

As citizens are relying more and more on the digital world, it only makes sense for our government-issued identification to quickly follow. Digital ID, the concept in its purest form involves a digital identification assigned to us at birth, just like our analog birth certificates, and provides a way to verify who we are online in a secure manner.

What are the benefits of a Digital ID? It will give us secure, online access to services we need – everything from government benefits to health and workplace services to education, and in theory make these services more accessible for everyone. Much of the present and certainly the future of the global economy is digital, and we have to keep up in order to stay relevant and competitive.

As Canada works towards the goal of every citizen having a Digital ID, there are challenges and considerations that need to be addressed. We don’t want to end up with a fragmented system that doesn’t interoperate well – and since the IDs would be issued provincially (just like our current birth certificates), citizens should demand government entities take the time to get it right so there are no gaps from a service or security perspective. And there’s lots of expertise to help – the CIO Strategy Council has announced a national standard for digital trust and identity and there’s a Pan Canadian Trust Framework that sets the model to share credentials which should be leveraged to ensure we end up with secure, effective Digital IDs.

The four most populous provinces are already moving forward on the development of their Digital ID systems, with the remaining provinces and territories watching and waiting. As citizens – the actual recipients of the IDs – we need to educate ourselves and ensure we communicate our wants and needs as the development continues. One secure system that works for everyone should be the priority. There needs to be no competition between provinces and territories, no duplication of effort, and our personal data needs to be safe within a system that’s easy to use, and just works.

We are at a crucial moment in our digital transformation journey in Canada and now’s the time to get it right.