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Digital Identity

By Chang Heng Wai GM, Head of Network Services NEC Corporation of Malaysia

Right Timing Of Embarking Digital Identity

In 2018, Ministry of Communications and Multimedia (KKMM) announced that Malaysia will be undertaking the study to implement National Digital ID (NDI), since then, we saw that there were indeed a lot of news and various initiatives focusing on this topic. The recent published Digital Economy Blueprint, MyDIGITAL has also emphasized the implementation of National Digital Identity (NDI) as part of the plan to build a more sustainable Digital Nation.

What is Digital ID?

Digital Identity (Digital ID) is a platform that provides trusted identification of a person of who he/she claimed they are. Many systems today uses userid, password and some also added another factor which is either using a mobile phone or a security token to generate what we called a one-time passcode before allowing them to enter into their website. However, userid, password and mobile can be easily taken over by another impersonating the actual person. The Digital Identity platform is designed in such that it is formed by various attributes of a person in creating what we term as Unique Identity. With this Unique Identity, applications and systems can easily consume to provide a more secured authentication and verification of the person that they are transacting. While many systems nowadays are open to the internet, Digital ID verification is required to prevent from fraud. You do not only verify the person who is buying but verifying the seller as well. Digital Identity are not only limited to the Government but enterprises such as Bank, Insurance, Airlines, Manufacturing, E-Commerce, Hotel, Resorts and others can decide to implement such systems to enhance their system security.

Solving the Issues

What is Digital Identity supposed to solve? Looking at the various statistics in the recent few years, we see that the cyber threat has increased tremendously. This is in line with the growth usage of the data subscriptions and increased of smart devices. Cyber threats come in many forms and it can be as easy as a phone call, messaging, website and social media sites.

According to some statistics published from the police force, a total of 67,522 cyber-crime cases were reported between 2017 to June 2021 which attributed to RM2.23 billion.

E-commerce scams are being rated the highest at 23,011 cases, followed by illegal loans of 21,008 cases and investment scams with 6,273 cases respectively. While, social media sites recorded as the number 1 platform of choice for cybercrime as there is no restrictions in terms of sharing of personal information that is exposed to various cyber threat such as cyberbullying, identity theft, cyber attack and fraud cases.

These threats occurred due to the fact that the scammer can easily sign up their accounts with these social media sites and they are not verified by a trusted source. Hence, they cannot be easily tracked by law enforcer.  

Besides cyber threat, there are also other inconvenience issues in the daily life of the public citizen. Take Malaysia as an example, if there is any event that you may have lost your wallet, your important documents such as the Malaysia National Identity Card (MyKAD), ATM Card, Credit/Debit Card and Driving License may probably went missing together with your wallet. You will then need to report to Police on the lost of wallet, go to Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara (JPN) to get a MyKAD replaced. In normal condition, the MyKAD replacement will be around 1-2 weeks. Then, you probably go to the bank to get your ATM card and Credit/Debit card replaced. Unfortunately, the bank’s mandate requires you to present your MyKAD for verification before they can process and issue you a new ATM card and the Credit/Debit card. With this mandate, you are basically quite stuck. Well, good thing nowadays, you may still have your e-Wallet within your mobile. That is if the mobile is with you and you have your e-Wallet registered. Otherwise, you basically will run out of cash in hand for your daily activities or for any emergencies.

Imagine, what if, instead of presenting your MyKAD at the bank to get the replacement, you can opt to use your Digital ID which is a trusted and secured source verified together with the bank information verification, the ATM card, Credit/Debit card can be immediately issued to you. To a further extend, the bank can also opt to use Digital ID as part of the verification of the person at the ATM to enable the withdrawal.

Figure : E Sun Bank uses NEC Digital ID technology in their ATM
Source : new window

Is this the right timing?

Prior to the (COVID-19) pandemic situation, there were some citizens who do not use Smart devices. But now, almost everyone are using Smart devices in their daily life. This includes your contact tracing app (MySejahtera), your commonly used food ordering and delivery app, eCommerce app and Social Media application. The pandemic situation has indeed turbo charged greatly on the mobile and data usage. With Digital Identity, it will definitely be the catalyst to promote Digital Economy, Government transformation and achieving what we call a Digital Nation. This indeed helps to drive and realize the full potential of MyDigital in Malaysia.

How do we do it?

There are a lot of discussion with regard to this topic. A lot which spells that Digital ID is using facial recognition. But is facial recognition the solution? What if the person who is an identical twin or if the person is physically blind? Will facial recognition technology be able to handle this alone?

Digital Identity is not just facial or an email id, but an identity that is securely verified and created through combination of multiple attributes such as mobile number, email address, home address, blood type, fingerprint, facial, iris, human body attributes such as whether the person was registered as OKU or lost of certain parts of the body and more. These various attributes will tell whether the person is actually who he/she claimed they are. Of course, some attributes information may change along the way but some information like the biometrics of the person will not change. All these attributes are governing each other and ensuring that the identity of the person is the real person.

With the implementation of Digital Identity and the adoption of this platform in the application, we can securely verify the person when they sign up to Social Media sites, Banking, eCommerce, Insurance, Government sites and many more. Hence, this will prevent fraud cases and scammer that is using invalid personal information in signing up in these sites. Enforcer can also easily track down the person who is trying to scam or running illegal online activity. Imagine if there is a scammer that is trying to call or connect to you via messaging platform, their details are verified by the Digital ID platform. They will be afraid to perform such activities as they can be tracked down by the police. Still recall the “MACAU SCAM” in 2020 where the scammer was using fake identities tricking the victims amounted to RM 256million.

All these frauds or scams can easily be prevented if there were a real trusted identity source digitally who is able to verify the identity before any transactions can proceed. It goes with both side, the seller and the buyer. Once verified, the transactions in a way will be deemed concluded securely.

Illustration of typical eCommerce using Digital ID to verify seller and user in the transactions
Figure 2 : Illustration of typical eCommerce using Digital ID to verify seller and user in the transactions

What other benefits?

There are a lot more than just prevention from fraud and scams. There are other benefits that Digital Identity can provide. Such as reassuring the identity for Education, Health, Travel, Business, Communications, Inter-Government and Country-to-country verifications for businesses that goes international. Expansion of Digital Identity is limitless. It is a platform that ensures a safer place for us to live in and a better life for our future. There are a lot of countries that has embarked on Digital Identity. India for an example, had enrolled more than 1 billion identities in their Digital ID verification system.

NEC Digital Identity Solution

NEC is a leading global provider of biometric software and Digital Identity solutions, which have been used to identify and verify well over a billion people around the world. The technology that is developed by our NEC Global Research Lab has received numerous awards and maintained at #1 position over the years. This technology that is built-in into the solution that we provide has empowered many organizations in providing more secured authentication and verifications by adding a layer of Digital Identity into their system providing better experience to their customer and protecting their account from being hijacked or fraud.


Digital ID is more than just a hypothetical idea that one thinks of as good to have. It has become a need for every business in their transactions. By implementing Digital ID, it is not just to safeguard both their business and users in the transaction but also to reduce lost due to fraud and even penalty that may occur.

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