Amid pandemic, most Canadians want a digital ID

17 February 2021 2 min. read

Three quarters of Canadians say they feel it’s important to have a digital ID to more securely make transactions online, according to a recent report from the DIACC – a nonprofit focused on digital IDs – and Burak Jacobson Research Partners, a Toronto-based market research consulting firm.

As Canadians and businesses have shifted more of their transactions to online channels amid the pandemic, a growing need for digital IDs has been highlighted, according to the DIACC. The nonprofit organization is composed of provincial and federal government leaders, as well as private sector leaders. The DIACC was formed as a result of the federal government’s Task Force for the Payments System Review (2011), which identified a pressing need to develop a modern digital payments system.

An important piece of that puzzle is a digital ID that helps verify online consumers in a secure and privacy-minded manner. They are an extension of physical IDs like passports and licenses, many of which weren’t designed for online use and boost the risk of identity fraud. 

Alberta already has the “MyAlberta Digital ID” that allows Albertans to access several online government services. Ontario is currently in the consultation phase of its own digital ID program.

The Pandemic has made digital ID more important than ever“From receiving emergency pandemic benefits to ensuring health records are correct and helping children and youth with online education, there are many ways in which a secure digital ID is essential to the functioning of daily life during a pandemic,” said Joni Brennan, president of the Digital ID and Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC).

But a wider digital ID would also allow consumers and businesses to conduct more secure and efficient online commerce. Small- and medium-sized enterprises would especially benefit from improved processes in situations where they need to provide proof of identity to another business. The report pegs the potential benefit of a digital ID to $4.5 billion of added value to SMEs and reinvestments in the economy, assuming a 1% efficiency boost.

Nine out of ten Canadians said they are very or somewhat supportive of a digital ID, while eight in ten believe it’s important for federal and provincial governments to move quickly on enabling a digital ID. Survey respondents tagged security, efficiency, and privacy as the top three benefits of a digital ID.

“As policymakers consider how best to invest to support Canada’s post-pandemic economic recovery, prioritizing the issuance of trusted digital ID credentials to all Canadians must be a priority,” said Dave Nikolejsin, the DIACC’s board chair.

A majority (66%) of Canadians said a collaboration between the public and private sector was the best way to create a pan-Canadian digital ID, while 17% picked a solo government effort, and 17% selected the private sector.