Ontario’s Digital Identity program delayed until 2022

By Julie Arounlasy

Ontario was supposed to get a province-wide digital ID program by the end of 2021, but that launch has been delayed until next year.

The program, dubbed Ontario’s Digital Identity (DI) program, was initially announced in the fall of 2020 as part of an action plan meant to make government services more digitally accessible and create more flexible public services.

The Associate Ministry of Digital Government tells CityNews the digital ID was delayed due to prioritizing the Verify Ontario app for businesses.

Verify Ontario was launched in October for businesses to confirm customer’s vaccination status while protecting their privacy.

“We want to get DI right and ensure that privacy and security continue to be a top priority,” a spokesperson said. “More details on the launch of the DI initiative, including timing and specifics, will be announced in 2022.”

In September the province released the set of technical tools they were using to build the program.

The program is meant to replace physical cards such as a drivers license or health card. It would then allow people to store their electronic ID in their digital wallet app on a smart device.

Ontario DI instructions

Government of Ontario

The government says the program is meant to be more private. For example, if someone needs to show they’re age of majority, the verifier will only know someone is over 18 and not their birthday or actual age.

People will also have complete control over the information they want to share and no one can access another person’s data without consent.

A digital ID is stored only on one person’s mobile device or computer and can be turned off remotely if their device is lost or stolen.

The government says they will not know where someone has been or where they used their digital ID. People must also always agree before sharing any information through the app.

COVID-19 is another reason why the app was created, with many turning to online shopping for contactless interactions.

“The pandemic has also taught us that contactless in-person service options (such as tap-to-pay instead of entering a PIN on a terminal) can help keep us safe. Ontario’s Digital ID will let you prove who you are in person without exchanging any physical documents,” the province said on their website.

The digital ID program will be available to make age sensitive purchases like buying a lottery ticket, picking up a package, applying for disability support, opening a bank account and more.

Businesses can also use the program to hire new employees, opening business accounts, or verify a customers’ identity.

The program will be voluntary to sign up for and people can still use physical ID whenever they want.

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