Facial verification enhances Singaporean government's digital identity programme

October 14, 2020 | 19:38
Four million Singaporeans can now access digital government services online, using facial verification implemented by iProov and Toppan Ecquaria for the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) under the pioneering National Digital Identity (NDI) programme.
facial verification enhances singaporean governments digital identity programme
Singapore's facial verification solution of choice was developed by iProov and Toppan Ecquaria

GovTech is the government agency driving Singapore’s digital government transformation and Smart Nation initiative.

iProov, the leading supplier of biometric authentication technology for Genuine Presence Assurance, and Toppan Ecquaria, a digital transformation company, were selected following an open international tender and many months of user testing and intensive security evaluation.

The system automatically enables 4 million SingPass users to authenticate themselves and prove that they are genuinely present when accessing online government services on computers or at kiosks. Activities such as completing a tax return can now be completed with a simple facial biometric scan, replacing the need to remember passwords.

SingPass is every Singaporean resident’s digital identity. It has evolved into a gateway allowing convenient and secure access to over 500 digital services offered by more than 180 government agencies and commercial entities.

Singapore is already allowing private sector organisations to leverage the government-built identity infrastructure for SingPass. Banks and other businesses, large and small, can securely integrate with SingPass Face Verification, to offer world-class online customer authentication capabilities without the cost of building their own systems.

It marks the first time that cloud facial verification, provided by iProov, has been used to secure national digital identity. Ecquaria Integration Centre enables secure integration between businesses and government agencies with the facial biometric authentication.

Quek Sin Kwok, senior director of National Digital Identity at GovTech Singapore, said; “Singapore’s national digital identity, SingPass, enables citizens and permanent residents to transact seamlessly and securely with public and private sectors’ digital services. We recently introduced a new biometrics face verification service for users to log in more conveniently to digital services, whilst providing an added layer of security for government agencies and businesses. SingPass Face Verification, under our National Digital Identity (NDI) programme, will help partners enhance their customer service journeys. We will continue to extend usefully and trusted NDI services to more private sector organisations to accelerate digitalisation and grow Singapore’s digital economy.”

For Singaporean residents, the ability to register for a bank account or engage with other organisations using the SingPass Face Verification offers a number of benefits. As well as access to a wider range of digital services, the user sees greater convenience, a simplified user experience, and increased privacy and security, as they no longer need to set up passwords or share sensitive data with every individual company. Such improvements in accessibility and online trust will lead to a greater uptake of digital services, one of the aims of Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative.

Unlike face recognition, which matches a physical face seen in a crowd to a list of images on a database, face verification is done with the knowledge and collaboration of the user. iProov’s Genuine Presence Assurance technology uses a facial biometric scan that is highly secure, yet effortless to use. The camera on the mobile device, computer or kiosk illuminates the user’s face with a cryptographic sequence of colours for a few seconds. This confirms that a user is the right person (the rightful holder of their national identity number); a real person (not a photograph, mask, or digital spoof); and authenticating right now (not a deepfake or injected video).

The cutting-edge solution of iProov facial biometric authentication and Ecquaria Government Platform Suite will augment and replace a device-based security solution, which uses SMS one-time passcodes. The new approach provides a secure, cloud-native solution that benefits citizens, businesses, and government agencies in Singapore.

Andrew Bud, founder and CEO at iProov, said, “This pioneering service enables citizens to live in a world of trust online. By iProoving themselves, the people of Singapore can have even greater confidence in their safety, privacy, and security on the internet.”

“This marks a tipping point for facial verification. The technology has advanced so much in recent years that it can now provide the highest levels of reliable security for the authentication of a national digital identity programme. It has been a privilege to work on this forward-thinking project with real trailblazers in national digital identity. The rest of the world will study this innovation and draw conclusions from its success,” he added.

The face verification solution:

  • Is simple to use – a brief face biometric scan requires no effort from the user. As it compares the user’s physical face to the image held in the government biometric database, the user does not have to enrol in the programme.
  • Increases accessibility by encouraging Singaporeans, especially older residents with limited mobility to use online banking and other services.
  • Improves inclusivity to those without smartphones by extending the service to government agencies’ kiosks.
  • Gives private businesses, both large and small, the ability to grow their digital services without needing to build their own infrastructures and biometric database.
  • Grows the digital economy by encouraging uptake and use of online services, both from the government and private businesses.
  • Increases security – passwords and other credentials stolen through phishing attacks will be useless as Genuine Presence Assurance checks that the individual is the right person, real person, authenticating right now.
  • Reduces the need for password and reset administration.
  • Improves convenience for millions of Singaporean residents who will be able to easily and securely access government and business services online using their existing national identity.

Foong Wai Keong, managing director of Toppan Ecquaria said, "Allowing businesses to tap into the government-built digital identity infrastructure significantly reduces time and costs. And doing so using facial verification and on the cloud – that is revolutionary."

“And as the world increasingly transacts online, cloud-native solutions are becoming the norm even in the public sector. Building a cloud-native ecosystem that securely and seamlessly integrates and benefits the government, businesses, and citizens alike have always been the heart of Toppan Ecquaria. We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Smart Nation initiative of the Singapore government," said Keong.

By Van Anh

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