Yes to Nordic e-IDs

01.11.17 | News
Anna-Maja Henriksson
Photographer
Johannes Jansson/norden.org
“It's been a good day and it’s great that we’ve made it this far. This is going to have a big impact on a lot of people in the Nordic Region. It is going to be easier to live work, study and have all of your business with the public sector done digitally throughout the Region,” says Anna-Maja Henriksson, who presented the proposal on behalf of the Centre Group.

The Nordic Council today adopted a proposal for Nordic e-IDs. An e-ID is a key to banking services, work, study and doing business, and it would be relatively easy to adapt them for use throughout the Nordic Region, provided the political will is there. And it is according to Henriksson.

“The Prime Minister of Finland, Juha Sipilä, gave a clear answer – that his government would go ahead with this – and that is a promise to the people of the whole of the Nordic Region. We have everything it takes to be the first produce an e-ID for everybody who lives in the Region,” Henriksson says.

The Nordic Council wants to make it simpler to live and study anywhere in the Region, and to run businesses that transcend national borders. A Nordic e-ID would not require civil registration numbers to be the same everywhere in the Region but it would have to be possible to link individuals’ identities to the data held on them by the public sector in each of the countries, e.g. civil registration offices and data on sickness benefit, unemployment benefit and pensions. In other words, an e-ID is a bit like a key you use to open doors that would otherwise be closed because you do not have a civil registration number for the country in which you are currently living.

Mutual recognition of e-IDs

The Nordic Council will present the following proposals to the national governments: •   mutual recognition of e-IDs •   mutual recognition of the forms of identification authorised by the civil registration offices in all of the countries •   mutual recognition of e-identification and e-signature systems and guarantees that computer systems are compatible in all sectors so that ordinary citizens do not encounter difficulties in their day-to-day life.

The committee also proposes roundtable talks with the Nordic Council of Ministers, banks and businesses about the use of civil registration numbers as a prerequisite for entering into contracts and about the smooth introduction of Nordic e-IDs.

Simple and cost-effective

Introducing a system of Nordic civil registration numbers would be expensive and involve a lot of work because the countries all have different computer systems that would have to be coordinated. It would, therefore, be much simpler and less expensive to co-ordinate the development of Nordic e-IDs. For example, there would be no need for new e-IDs that are explicitly Nordic – the ones already used in the different countries would do fine. The EU regulations on e-IDs and services for use with online transactions already stipulate that member states must accept e-IDs issued by other member states on an equal footing with their own, and Norway and Sweden have already conducted successful pilot studies.

What is an electronic identity (e-ID)?

An e-ID is a bit like a key that you use to open doors that would otherwise be closed because you do not have a civil registration number for the country in which you are currently living. They are already in use, e.g. pin numbers and codes that provide access to public services. An e-ID is a key to banking services, work, study and doing business across borders, and it would be relatively easy to adapt them for use throughout the Region.  “We have some of the best systems in the world, and by working together we can have the best system that transcends national borders,” says Tor Alvik of the Norwegian Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi).  

From proposal for Nordic citizenship to e-IDs

The original proposal by the Centre Group for Nordic citizenship/civil registration numbers has attracted a great deal of attention this year.

Long process

Henriksson admits that it would be difficult to give an exact timetable for when Nordic e-IDs will be a reality, but she hopes that it will not be too many years before the Nordic Council is able to cross the idea of its to-do list. “We need to show that Nordic co-operation leads the way and helps develop our society. We must prove that we are capable of turning words into deeds. We must show that decisions made by the Nordic Council affect people's day-to-day lives.”