About digital ID

Digital ID is a new, electronic government-issued identification that will let people and businesses prove who they are online and in person. Digital ID will contain strong encryption and privacy-protecting technology that keeps your information secure while making government and private sector services more convenient to use.

Having a digital ID will be optional – you will still be able to use physical documents if you want.

Who we talked with (so far)

Making digital ID an option will involve almost everyone in Ontario – from all levels of government, to businesses big and small, to individuals like you.

To make sure we get it right, we are getting input from all the key players, including the people of Ontario. So far, we have completed two phases of consultations.

Phase 1: Industry experts

November 2020 - December 2020

During Phase 1 we met with key organizations that will help populate Ontario’s digital ID “ecosystem”– the shared network and infrastructure that safely and securely makes using digital identities possible – and with those who are most likely to use digital ID.

We consulted on technology, standards and government’s role in the ecosystem. The industry experts we talked with came from:

  • organizations that will rely on digital ID (such as banks and online retailers)
  • standards and framework organizations
  • technology firms
  • digital ID service providers
  • governments and public sector agencies
  • interest groups
  • consulting firms
  • think tanks and innovation hubs
  • 12
    weeks
  • 68
    organizations participated
  • 100+
    industry experts engaged
  • 5
    2-hour roundtable discussions

Phase 2: General public and small- and medium-sized businesses

February 2021

During Phase 2 we surveyed and consulted with the public and both small- and medium-sized businesses about using digital ID. We wanted to learn:

  • how likely they’d be to use digital ID in certain situations
  • what they consider to be the benefits and drawbacks of digital ID
  • how soon they’d sign up for digital ID and what might influence that decision
  • their levels of trust and comfort with digital ID
  • what supports small- and medium-sized businesses would need to promote digital ID
  • Survey
    7k
    responses from the public
    721
    responses for small- and medium-sized businesses
  • Focus groups
    4
    90-minute discussions
    32
    decision makers engaged

What we learned in Phase 1

After analysing what industry experts told us during Phase 1, we identified five clear categories of insights about what is needed for digital ID to work in Ontario.

1. Government cannot do this alone

We will need to partner with public and private-sector organizations to:

  • create a digital ID ecosystem that will:
    • ensure security, privacy and inclusivity with the appropriate oversight and regulation
    • include standards and technology that can be extended and adopted by the private sector and other provinces
    • distribute the investment required to develop technology and implement digital ID
  • create new ways of making both online and in-person services more convenient
  • drive economic growth by:
    • helping businesses go digital
    • encouraging businesses to create new products and services that would benefit from digital ID
    • creating savings and improving efficiency

2. People and businesses will drive our focus

We’ve learned about the value people and businesses expect from digital ID so we can first focus on where it can best meet those expectations. For example, we learned that people expect digital ID to be helpful in accessing health care – that’s why we’ve already launched a digital identity service with four Ontario hospitals.

3. Over time, the ecosystem should be self-sustaining

A successful digital ID ecosystem is supported by investments from both government (public) and business (private) sector funds. Experts advised that this would:

  • give both sectors an interest in the ecosystem’s success
  • encourage better collaboration between the sectors
  • distribute any risk across both sectors

4. Prioritize speed over perfection

Using digital ID for government and private sector services is an ambitious goal that will take time to achieve. The best approach is to introduce digital ID in situations with the highest potential impact for the individuals or businesses that use it. We will learn from early pilot projects and continually improve as we introduce digital ID more widely. While we will be working quickly to make a product available, we will never sacrifice privacy and security – they will always be our top priorities.

5. The government must be internally aligned for external success

Introducing digital ID will mean significant changes to how many sectors do business. This means that whether digital ID solutions are introduced in business, finance, education or health care, the ministries that support those sectors must work together with stakeholders to ensure those solutions are consistent and connected.

What we learned in phase 2

To realize the large-scale benefits of digital ID, such as cost savings and greater overall privacy and security, people and businesses need to trust and use it.

We took what they told us in Phase 2 and used that data to project how likely people and small- and medium-sized businesses are to use digital ID and what will drive them either to or away from using it – here’s what they told us.

Trust, privacy, security and benefits are critical

The top drivers for using digital ID are similar for individuals and small- and medium-sized businesses. They need to:

  • Trust that the government and ecosystem will keep their information private and secure
  • Understand digital ID will be convenient and save them time

The top reasons both groups would not use digital ID are:

  • Not understanding digital ID
  • Not believing digital ID is secure and private
  • Thinking it will be hard to learn how to use digital ID

If they trust government will protect their information:

  • Individuals are 1.9 times more likely to use digital ID
  • Small- and medium-sized businesses are 2.7 times more likely to use digital ID

What individuals and businesses expect

Individuals are at least 2 times more likely to accept and use digital ID if they believe it meets at least one of these expectations:

  1. Digital ID will give them greater privacy or control
  2. Using digital ID will save them time
  3. They feel confident about learning how to use digital ID

Small- and medium-sized business are at least 2 times more likely to accept and use digital ID if they believe it meets at least one of these expectations:

  • Government or technology companies will protect their business’s information
  • Using digital ID will save them time
  • Digital ID will increase the quality of their business
Individuals are 14 times less likely to use digital ID if they don’t believe it has any benefits.

Where people would use digital ID

Our surveys asked people and small- and medium-sized businesses to tell us how likely they’d be to use digital ID in 63 possible situations. The top categories were:

  • Government services (such as applying for benefits or getting permits)
  • Financial services (such as opening a bank account or getting a mortgage)
  • Health care services (such as contactless appointment check ins)
  • Operating a business (such as proving ownership or verifying other businesses’ credentials)

Overall likelihood of using digital ID

Ontario can be a world-leading jurisdiction in digital ID, and our market consultations have revealed a strong public desire to see that happen.

  • 17%
    are ready now
    Of people who said they’d use digital ID, 17% said they’d start using it within the first year it’s introduced. This means we can target those early adopters by inviting them to pilot projects and getting their feedback.
  • 80%
    will be ready within 5-6 years
    It will take most Ontarians a few years to get used to the idea of digital ID, which means we can and will take the time to get it right.

Next steps

We are bringing digital ID to Ontario in late 2021. To do that – based on what we learned from our consultations and other work so far – we are:

  • developing a government-issued digital ID that Ontarians could use in various scenarios
  • engaging industries on the direction of technologies and standards
  • developing additional proofs of concept and pilot projects for further feedback
  • engaging the Information and Privacy Commissioner and other stakeholders on our direction to ensure transparency and the public’s trust and confidence
  • holding policy-focused consultations to ensure privacy protections and key principles, such as inclusion and equity, are embedded into our plans

You can follow our progress at ontario.ca/digitalid.

Updated: August 23, 2021
Published: August 19, 2021