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Maximizing network security as eGovernment grows in popularity

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, digital government initiatives were instigated as an effective tool to provide citizens with government services without requiring physical presence. As this digital transformation progresses, ePrivacy and network security are two important factors that must be carefully considered

Across the world, the use of ICT (information and communications technology) to provide access to government services and information is becoming increasingly popular. Since the global pandemic started, the availability and user-centricity of eGovernment services has increased, but COVID-19 isn’t the only reason for its growth. Now, affordable smartphones are widely available – globally, an average of 76% of people in advanced economies have a smartphone1 – and ongoing advances in technology mean that a secure implementation of government services in the cloud is increasingly possible.

In August 2021, the G20 ministers’ meeting on digitalization was held in Trieste, Italy. G20 members signed a declaration identifying 12 actions to accelerate digital transition.2 One of these focuses on ICTs to improve public services, while another focuses on the development of digital identities, a prerequisite for a well-functioning eGovernment offering a broad portfolio. The initiative is an important step for the advancement of eGovernment technology, which benefits both governments and the public alike.

Improving eGovernment infrastructures

During COVID-19, cities and processes ground to a standstill, and reduced human contact meant it was no longer possible to pick up documents containing personal data as before. Many authorities had to ensure a secure communication technology could be rolled out quickly to issue government-approved documents digitally. VeriGO® TrueSeal, an eGovernment-based verification service that supports sensitive personal data – immunization records, doctor’s notes, curfew exemptions – is one such solution, helping governments include eGovernment services in existing infrastructure.

COVID-19 undoubtedly sped up the implementation of cloud-based eGovernment services in several countries, but in many cases, its potential is still not being fully realized. A 2020 UN report noted that countries such as Denmark, South Korea, and Estonia lead with eGovernment systems, while the U.S. lags behind New Zealand in terms of digital public services offered.3

Where implemented, eGovernment services break down barriers and make lives easier. In many countries, families no longer have to leave their homes with a newborn to register a birth: thanks to online birth registration possibilities, bureaucracy is made simpler. Later in life, too, solutions such as Veridos’s VeriGO® TrueID can be utilized to securely validate user identity using biometric facial recognition when updating passports, renewing driver’s licenses or applying for copies of birth certificates.

The benefits of eGovernment services

Most of us can identify with the looming thought of having to visit a government agency to gain access to information or resolve administrative queries. Being able to register a birth or apply for a pet license using a computer is a convenient, hassle-free, and efficient process for the public, saving on time, travel, and paperwork.

For governments, too, the advantages are substantial. The initial costs are high, but the returns can be significant. In Estonia, it is estimated that 1,400 years of working time and 2% of GDP has been saved through the implementation of digital public services.4 One research project has suggested that countries implementing digital ID could unlock value equivalent to between 3% and 13% of GDP by 2030.5

And for banks as well, there are advantages to the eGovernment evolution: digital ID can enhance risk management and improve customer experience at the same time.

Network security to ensure data privacy

As convenient and practical as documents in a decentralized digital vault or cloud are, there are ongoing concerns surrounding compliance, data protection, transparency, ePrivacy, and trust.

Regarding compliance, international standards must be implemented to ensure the validity of digital documents in other countries. In the EU, the eIDAS regulation ensures that national electronic ID schemes can be used in other countries, but the tricky issue of adoption remains: persuading Europeans to use it and ensuring its secure functionality are two key issues.

Unsurprisingly, public concern over personal data, unauthorized use, network security, and successful detection of data breaches are some of the reasons the public may be hesitant to utilize eGovernment services.

In terms of cybersecurity threats and reducing vulnerability, the cloud must be protected against malware and cyber attacks via ongoing active application hardening. This term describes a dynamic approach that protects an app via multiple layers of security. And this is not just limited to the app – it also applies to the various layers that may contain vulnerabilities, such as the administrator level, the user level, and so on. All to inhibit hackers’ attempts to tamper with the app.

Then, there’s the question of security versus convenience: high levels of security mean more login and verification steps for the user, making its use more cumbersome for citizens. Striking the right balance is important, whether by adding protection using cryptography or security steps that involve the use of biometrics.

“With eGovernment, the fine line between providing a convenient user experience and maximizing network security is of utmost importance“
Xavier Prost
Head of eGovernment at Veridos

Citizen concerns over data management, access rights, and data privacy are a valid response to the speed at which global digital transformation continues. It is imperative that digital data is subject to the same highly secure data privacy laws and regulations as traditional, non-digital government documents. Citizens have the right to choose who can access this sensitive data – and how.

Secure eGovernment services for the future

The digital transition continues, and with it comes the potential to ensure more and more government services are available in the cloud. The implementation, management, and optimization of ICT processes and their underlying security is costly. However, if done right, the benefits are immense. Governments can save a great deal of time and money, and services become increasingly accessible if available digitally.

One of the most important factors that needs to be taken into account is data security. Data protection must be the number one priority when implementing eGovernment systems and services, and yet user experience must still be considered – the public should be able to use these services via their smartphone, computer, or even via other inclusive devices, without difficulty. The best way to manage these demands is to stay on the ball – growing as eGovernment grows, while always providing protection to the public’s personal data.

  1. How many people have smartphones in 2021?, Oberlo, 2021

  2. The Digital Ministers approves a Declaration identifying 12 actions to accelerate the digital transition of the economy and governments, G20 Italia 2021, 2021

  3. E-Government Survey 2020, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2020

  4. Estonia – the Digital Republic Secured by Blockchain, PWC, 2019

  5. Digital identification: A key to inclusive growth, McKinsey Global Institute, 2019

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