The article originally published on if24.ru
Russia may abandon paper passports by 2023. Under the concept presented by Deputy Prime Minister Maxim Akimov on 3 July, personal identification documents will become fully digital.
A document may exist in physical form — as a plastic card with a special chip (similar to a bank card), or it may be a fully virtual document, only existing within a mobile app that enables access to electronic signature. Tentatively, the gradual move away from paper documents may start as soon as next year, and by 2028 all “old-type” passports will be completely replaced with their digital counterparts. At the same time, the state duty for issuing a passport — is expected to remain at the current level of 300 rubles.
The government is reviewing three options for implementing electronic passports, presented by Goznak, Voskhod and Rostelecom. The idea of card-passports will require more than 140 billion in investment. However, financing is not the only issue. Experts tell Invest-Foresight what else to expect.
Sergey Leschenko, Deputy Head of the Project Office for Implementing the National Program “Digital Economy of the Russian Federation” of the Russian Government’s Analytical Center
– Implementing all major projects featured in the National Program “Digital Economy of the Russian Federation”, including the one about electronic passports, requires ramping up the use of trusted domestic products and solutions. To guarantee high security level and technological independence of the electronic passport system, it is important to focus on domestic software, hardware, cyber-security systems and associated products. Moreover, we must determine the proper technology architecture of the electronic passport, that would be future-proof enough for further improvement and upscaling.
Russia is generally prepared to implement digital technologies. Our residents show high digital activity. For example, the Government Services portal has 90 million users — twice as many as in 2016. According to several analytical organizations, about 86% of the Russian population access the Internet on a daily basis.
Speaking about technology readiness, I must say that the needs for domestic hardware and the capacity of the Russian market to meet the goal for the development of electronic passport system have been identified.
Definitely, at some point in the implementation of the electronic passports people will find it hard from the psychological point of view to leave their paper passports behind. But this will not pose a serious issue if we inform the people, explain the advantages of the digital document. These include wear resistance, protection against fraud, instant service provision, e.g., when buying tickets, and easier access to government services.
We should also keep in mind that many countries have already implemented e-passports in various form factors: from mobile applications to SIM cards and ID cards. New solutions appear nearly every day, and more and more countries are looking towards digital identification. To us it only means one thing: we must follow suit if we want to remain at the forefront of “digital leaders”.
Timur Sadykov, Head of the Artificial Intelligence, Neural Technologies and Business Analytics Lab, Plekhanov Russian University of Economics
– As daunting as the idea of abandoning physical media for passports and other documents (watermarked paper in the case of passports) may sound, it is the way to go. In fact, a wide range of important documents in Russia and abroad have long been upgraded to electronic form, with paper media being abandoned. This applies, for example, to invitations sent by the Federal Migration Service to foreigners wishing to visit our country, or Australian visas. The entire airline booking service has long been migrated to electronic tickets, and many young people cannot believe that just a few years ago an airline ticket was a booklet of several pages. Indeed, electronic documents have numerous advantages:
· They cannot be forgotten, lost or stolen;
· They do not wear out;
· They can be instantly and freely transmitted to anywhere in the world;
· No need to take notarized copies.
From the government’s point of view, the advantage of electronic documents is that they do not require expensive materials and complex printing equipment; a document can be issued near-instantly, and revoked just as fast (for example, in case of a wanted person). Moreover, with proper observance of the information security standards it is impossible to fake an electronic passport protected by modern encryption algorithms. An attempt by a passport issuing official to violate their duties will immediately be identified.
However, the dangers and prospective issues associated with the migration to electronic passports are also great, and primarily related with the need to strictly regulate access to the databases. A successful hacking attack against the centralized storage of all passports in the country may render most government bodies inoperable for a long period of time.
Alexander Sanin, Commercial Director, AVANPOST Company
– So far there is no certainty, even at the concept level yet: no infrastructure operator has been identified, not even a clear picture on what infrastructure will ultimately be required. Some are talking about chipped plastic cards, similar to existing digital signature cards. Some advocate complete abandonment of physical media. In my opinion, the option with no physical media is riskier in terms of data safety than the chip card option. Just because the smartphone application option promoted by Rostelecom is way more vulnerable to hacking than a physical smart card stored in your document folder.
The IT infrastructure needed for serving the digital passport system is neither ultra-complex nor unique. But securing the data it contains would be a much more interesting topic. One way or another, whatever implementation option is chosen, a lot of work is to be done to ensure information security. One has to think of all the options of the digital passport usage, and all the possible risks and threats inherent in each use case. Moreover, in some use cases the risks will be so high that defending against them would be much more expensive than eliminating the respective use case for the digital passports altogether.
Natalya Svechnikova, Cand.Sc. Law, Associate Professor
– The idea of storing a document holder’s personal data on electronic media is not new for this country. The Federal Law №114-FZ “On the Procedure of Leaving the Russian Federation and Entering the Russian Federation” has long defined a procedure for issuing foreign passports containing personal information of the passport holder recorded on an electronic chip. This information includes a digital photo and fingerprint scans of a person applying for a foreign passport.
There are both positive and negative consequences of completely switching from paper passports to electronic identification documents. Definitely, digital electronic media with personal data is more strongly protected against forging. Storing biometric data in electronic media would also play an important role in solving crimes. However, replacing the paper passports with electronic ones raises the issue of personal data security and identity theft. One aspect of the problem would be a higher cost of the electronic passports and having to equip many government agencies with the hardware and software needed to collect and verify the data.
Alexander Borodich, Founder, Universa Blockchain platform
– A digital passport is a register of civil records tied to a person’s unique ID. The records can only be added to it, while keeping the entire history of all changes. Implementing digital passports would significantly improve the time needed to access government services and increase their availability.
Implementing electronic passports by 2023 is completely feasible. This can be achieved by using the distributed ledger technology, which allows using existing infrastructure to build the new system, without spending a lot of funds on hardware upgrades. The blockchain will make sure any information entered into it remains invariable, and will show every authorized person, including the personal data subjects themselves, who accessed their personal data and for what reason. Access to personal data can be enforced with smart contracts.
Ivan Korovin, Deputy General Director, IVK Company
– No matter which option is chosen for building the electronic passport infrastructure — it has to be developed from the ground up using technologically independent domestic software and hardware platforms. In fact, Russian companies have already designed and are producing everything that’s needed — from hardware platforms such as Elbrus, Baikal, ELVIS to servers, personal computers and notebooks using Russian-made processors. ALT operating system for servers and workstations is the only one in Russia to be built using its own technologically independent software repository. ALT uses Elbrus-native CPU instructions, ensuring the chip runs at its full capacity.
These software and hardware facilities are similar in performance to their leading foreign counterparts; they are secure and are not affected by sanctions. They can work securely, reliably and seamlessly in heterogeneous networks comprised of both foreign and domestic components. A pool of compatible application software is being developed quickly for the platform and listed in the Unified Register of Russian Software. An ecosystem has been established and keeps growing, which includes not just software and hardware developers but also organizations that are responsible for deployment, technical support and training.
By Anna Oreshkina