South Korea To Offer Blockchain-Based IDs

The South Korean government has said it plans to offer blockchain-based digital identity verification to citizens, running on smartphones, in a move it says could boost economic growth.

Proponents say digital identity verification can significantly cut administration costs for governments and businesses and create new markets.

Suh Bo Ram, director-general of South Korea’s digital-government bureau, which is leading the programme, said the digital IDs would allow government departments to go fully online.

“Every service that hasn’t been able to fully transition online will now be able to do so,” Suh said, according to a Bloomberg report.

Economic growth

He said South Korea could see benefits to the tune of 60 trillion won ($42bn, £37bn), or 3 percent of GDP, within a decade.

The plan is to see a digital version of South Koreans’ resident registration cards, a key government identity document, embedded into mobile devices.

The digital ID is to launch in 2024 and the government is aiming for adoption by 45 million of the tech-savvy country’s citizens within two years.

Suh said the government was aware of “Big Brother” concerns and assured that the government would have no access to information stored on individual phones, such as how individuals use their digital IDs, due to the system’s decentralised architecture.

Digital ID

Blockchain technology, which underlies cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, is a digital ledger that is verified by the systems linked to the network whenever a transaction occurs, making it resistant to tampering while remaining outside any centralised control.

South Korea already offers a blockchain-based driver’s licence, which operates on the government’s PASS smartphone application, and was in use by more than one million people as of August 2020.

The Korea Internet & Security Agency (KISA), a government body, began pilot-testing its own digital ID in September 2020.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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