As one of the six Smart Nation Strategic National Projects in Singapore, the National Digital Identity (NDI) ecosystem aims to provide citizens and businesses convenience and security for their online transactions by allowing citizens a single digital identity for transactions. It is a common and universal trust framework for public and private sectors to build value-added digital services.
Since 2003, Singapore has been using a national-level digital identity, called SingPass, which has been issued to more than 3.8 million citizens and residents. It was originally meant to solve the problem of each government agency having their own set of credentials to verify a user’s identity, very much similar to how we have different accounts for each bank or online services. Today, it has evolved to a gateway allowing access to over 300 digital services offered by more than 60 government agencies and some private sector entities. More than 70 million transactions are conducted with SingPass annually. A recent survey conducted by the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office showed that citizens’ and businesses’ satisfaction with government digital services had increased by eight percentage points in 2019 to reach 86 per cent and 77 per cent respectively, the highest since 2012.
NDI was developed as an extension of this platform, and as part of it the SingPass Mobile app was launched to provide a simpler method of authenticating a user's identity online. It securely stores an individual’s digital identity and individuals can use it prove their identity and to provide authorization, using biometrics features on the phone.
In addition, NDI brings various digital initiatives like SingPass/SingPass Mobile, MyInfo and MyInfo Business together to provide greater online convenience and transactional security for citizens and businesses alike. By integrating NDI into their offerings, businesses can improve both customer service, and their internal business processes. NDI has been described “as a cornerstone of the digital economy”, and it is clear that businesses operating in the economy of Singapore will need to take note.
Economically, there are certain ecosystems which businesses simply must be part of. You can now add NDI to this list.
So, why should businesses use NDI? By creating a trusted digital ecosystem, the NDI APIs allow data and services to transcend the boundaries of organizations, offering businesses benefits such as:
- Online “one-click” registrations: with MyInfo you can obtain information from consenting individuals and use data from government sources to identify and verify a customer’s identity with eKYC (electronic Know Your Customer) procedures.
- In-Person Identity Verification: with SingPass you can verify the identity of users and obtain information from them by simply scanning QR codes
- Online Authentication: with SingPass you can securely authenticate users of your online services, without the need to implement and maintain your own infrastructure and systems.
- Remote Authorization: with SingPass you can notify and seek authorisation for transactions from customers who are not physically present. (coming soon)
- Digital Signing: with SingPass you can empower your customers to digitally sign documents (contracts, agreements etc.) which benefit from legal presumptions under the Electronics Transaction Act in Singapore. (coming soon)
- Biometrics-as-a-Service: with SingPass you can use facial recognition as an alternative way of verifying a person’s identity, without needing to collect biometrics data. (coming soon)
It is important to note that the features of the NDI platform listed above relate to customers being able to authenticate themselves before entering a secure environment where your business can offer and exchange digital documents online with citizens in Singapore. So how does this apply to the existing customer journeys at my business you might ask? Let’s give you some examples where hassle-free registration and seamless transactions are useful.
Example business use-cases using NDI
- Account opening/credit card/loan application at financial institutions
- Quotation and Invoice creation at any business
- Making online appointments in healthcare or any other business
- Booking tickets at events, transportation, hospitalization businesses
- Stay in touch with customers since users can easily update their details centrally in MyInfo without needing to resubmit documents for verification.
- Online onboarding of new users can apply to any business
- Accessing personal, financial, medical, or educational records safely and securely.
- Entering into an agreement with an electricity company, entering into a lease, an interim office, signing a registered shipment, and so on. Any exchange of signed documents in healthcare, finance, telecom, real estate, or hospitality is eligible.
These are not just potential use-cases though, they’re applicable right now. In 2017, the Singapore Government extended MyInfo to the private sector, making it one of the first governments in the world to give citizens the ability to consent and securely share their data with businesses.
“In an interview following the MyInfo private sector extension, the head of e-business at OCBC Bank Singapore, one of the largest banks in APAC, said that it previously took customers an average 2 to 3 working days to open an account. Thanks to MyInfo the same application can be done in under 5 minutes. In addition, after MyInfo was implemented digital account applications went up 3 times in a few months with 80% of those applications using MyInfo.”
Enough said right? Yet this increasingly digital world means businesses in Singapore who still have paper document workflows need to urgently replace them with fully automated digital document workflows. Once customers use MyInfo and SingPass more and more, the direct consequence will be you’ll need to serve documents digitally instead of paper documents. Both available online and in a workable digital format.
For some time now, people in Singapore have been stepping away from any kind of document flow which still demands they 1) print to paper, 2) sign on paper, 3) submit paper by post, or scan paper and email back to businesses. Who can blame them? If you too could finally be able to avoid the slog of manually filling out forms or having to repeatedly provide your personal data over and over again when signing contracts online, wouldn’t you feel the same?
Initiatives such as NDI cause the exchange of data and documents to increasingly become purely digital, ultimately creating a new default citizen behavior. Needless to say, if a business in Singapore is still printing on paper and not to a digital file format (such as PDF, one of the most popular and flexible file formats in the world), is that such a business is a) guaranteed to lose money due to time consuming and error prone paper workflows and b) lose users and customers due to the lack of user convenience. This last one is also known as losing market share.
So instead of losing market share, let’s propel the growth of your business and its market share. If you weren’t already convinced to start NDI integration, we should have your attention now.
NDI creates a need for PDF document creation and manipulation
The NDI APIs are already available and well-documented for your current IT team or System Integrator. That’s simple enough. But how do you get your IT team started on high volume digital document generation and processing? Do you let them develop this functionality from scratch? Go through a long process of trial and error, bugs, etc.?
No, developing and testing is new software no joke and takes a long time before you can really call it stable and secure. Far better to look for an existing toolbox which allows your business to create, edit, design, redact, recognize, extract, sign, secure PDF documents on a massive scale.
Governments and multinational companies are using iText on an enormous scale, airlines, banks, telecom, healthcare companies etc. The iText SDK leans on 20 years of code. Code which is proven to be performant and stable enough to be implemented in business-critical applications by thousands of businesses worldwide over the past 20 years. Have a look at PDFs you receive from other organizations like boarding passes, tickets, invoices, bank statements. Chances are, when you’re looking at the file information, you’ll find it was generated using iText.
Tip: Use templates for high volume PDF generation
The above actions often require PDF generation in high volumes, and a way to simplify this is using templates. iText offers developers various ways of generating and manipulating PDF documents, with or without templates, but iText DITO was developed to give both developers and non-developers a way to design and maintain templates for PDFs without any programming. Users are able design their templates using a graphical user interface and can link data from various sources to elements of the template in the same way. It’s a powerful PDF template engine which combines iText’s proven abilities in mass-producing high-quality PDFs, with a graphical interface for designing templates.
Digital Signing of PDF agreements with SingPass
Once the Sign with SingPass capabilities go live, while you’re digitally transforming your workflows with iText’s PDF knowledge and technology, you’ll have to look at gaining knowledge in digital signing of PDFs too. Benefits of using digital signatures include automating and securing your digital document workflow, saving you time, money and headache.
There are three main goals of digital signatures:
- Integrity: assurance that the document has not been changed somewhere in the workflow.
- Authenticity: assurance that the author of the document is who we think it is (and not somebody else)
- Non-repudiation: assurance that the author cannot deny their authorship.
These three concepts combined allow you to feel confident that your documents are both secure and correct throughout your workflow. Moreover, digital signature solutions offer various advantages such as increased efficiency, reduced turnover time, lower costs, and enhanced security. They also ensure enhanced data integrity, scalability, and transparency, and customer satisfaction, propelling the digital signature market growth.
And the market is certainly growing at quite a pace. According to a recent report published by MARKETSANDMARKETS Research, the global digital signature market is projected to grow from USD 1.2 billion in 2018 to USD 5.5 billion by 2023, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 36.7%.
Public and private organizations worldwide have been looking at the possibilities allowed by Singapore’s NDI platform with awe. Yet this also means digital document workflows have become essential to anyone doing business in Singapore.
So, if this applies to you, make sure you profit from these advantages by utilising the tools already at your disposal.