Background

Since announcing the launch of Ontario’s digital identity program in October 2020, we have made progress developing a digital ID that will bring more public and private sector services online, including:

  • launching and scaling a successful pilot with Ontario hospitals that gives patients online access to their health information and other services
  • holding public consultations in late 2020 and early 2021
  • sharing technology and standards approaches with industry, subject matter experts, and individuals

Digital ID is a new form of secure, electronic government‐issued ID that, over time, will offer convenient online and in-person access to public and private sector services, while protecting data privacy.

Having or accepting a digital ID will be optional – Ontarians will still be able to use their physical ID cards and certificates (such as a driver’s licence or birth certificate), if they want.

The benefits of a digital ID include:

  • a trustworthy government ID with stronger safety, security and privacy features than physical ID cards or documents
  • personal control over which information someone shares (for example, an individual could share their age, but not their name or address)
  • more convenient access to products and services that need people to show ID
  • contactless access to in-person services
  • accelerating economic recovery for Ontarians, businesses and the government by tapping into the estimated $20 billion in economic value footnote 1 created by digital IDs

Key themes and goals

To establish a digital ID in Ontario, the following key principles will support the development of the program’s policy framework:

  • Privacy and security: The program would be designed to ensure that privacy is paramount and personal information will be protected
  • Consent, choice and convenience: The program would give Ontarians more choice by enabling convenient ways to access public and private sector services online
  • Ease of use: The program would ensure a digital ID and related services are easy to use
  • Fit for purpose: The program would ensure a digital ID is useful and meets the needs of Ontario’s people and businesses
  • Accessibility: The program would ensure a digital ID meets accessibility standards
  • Alignment: The program would align with standards – including interoperability, emerging open technology standards and approaches adopted by private sector organizations and other jurisdictions in Canada and internationally
  • Flexible, iterative approach: The program would be able to update and adapt as digital ID initiatives grow and evolve

From these key principles, we have identified three themes that we want your feedback on to ensure that the program works for Ontarians.

Theme 1: Protecting Ontarians’ privacy and security

The program heard in the last two rounds of consultation that a digital ID must be safe, secure and trusted. The Government of Ontario would ensure that privacy is paramount and personal information will be protected according to applicable laws, standards and best practices, including:

  • the collection, use, disclosure, retention, security and destruction of identity data
  • embedding essential privacy, security and interoperability measures into the digital identity system and technologies
  • allowing Ontarians to manage their own digital ID (for example, they could add or remove credentials or opt out of a digital ID completely)

Questions for discussion

  1. To ensure a safe and secure digital ID, what privacy and security protections, not already embedded in current laws, should be considered to safeguard personal information and minimize fraud or identity theft?
  2. What measures should the program take to enhance the privacy and security of a digital ID?

Theme 2: Governance and following expert advice

The program heard from the last rounds of consultation that public stakeholders would like to see the Government of Ontario take a leadership role in shaping digital identity governance in Ontario (for example, outlining the supporting structures that government should put in place for the program to effectively work with digital identity stakeholders).

The government would be responsible for continuing to consult with different stakeholders, standard-setting bodies, other Canadian jurisdictions, the federal government and Ontarians to enable a consistent approach for the program’s overall policy and governance direction.

To support digital identity governance, the government will continue to draw on expert advice from the digital identity sector to inform the design of a safe, secure, privacy-first and easy-to-use digital ID. We will also adhere to best practices for regulating digital identity in Ontario.

Questions for discussion

  1. How can the program continue to benefit from expert advice as it grows? What is the best way for the public, industry and other interested stakeholders to provide ongoing input into the program’s governance?
  2. What best practices from other jurisdictions would help inform the governance structure of digital identity in Ontario?

Theme 3: Ensuring equity and inclusion of all Ontarians

Building on Ontario’s Digital and Data Strategy, the program would need to ensure that everyone in Ontario, regardless of age, race, ability, language, gender, geographic location or socioeconomic status, has access to the benefits of a digital ID, if they chose to sign up for one.

A digital ID would help Ontarians access services faster and securely, including accessing jobs, education, healthcare, social services and completing financial transactions.

The program would be designed to ensure the right to privacy, equality and non-discrimination and that the foundational principles of digital inclusion are adopted.

Questions for discussion

  1. How can the program ensure it is inclusive and equitable so all Ontarians have access to a digital ID?
  2. What standards and practices does the program need to follow to advance access and equity?

Footnotes

  • footnote[1] Back to paragraph This is a rough-order-of-magnitude estimate calculated from about 35 value drivers and hundreds of data points from various sources such as DIACC (Digital ID & Authentication Council of Canada), McKinsey Global Institute and World Economic Forum.
Updated: November 29, 2021
Published: November 18, 2021