Mobile phones are set to become the primary source of identity in just five years, but traditional forms of identification will still remain

15 August, 2019

We are increasingly hearing about the importance of mobile across all auspices of the travel process and how a mobile-first approach designing for the smallest screen and working up is becoming a more commonly used strategy by businesses. Google has made it clear that mobile-first is the way to go and experts say designing first for desktop is now a mistake, that responsive mobile design is like fitting a square peg into a round hole and that mobile first is the only way to go… there are after all more than five billion mobile users.

A new report from Juniper Research highlights the growing rise of mobile with nearly 40% of people having mobile digital identity documents in 2024, when telecommunications operators could find themselves becoming identification brokers. It suggests that the use of unique mobile identifier services, which provide identity verification through SIMs, will generate over USD7 billion for mobile operators in 2024. This is up from an expected USD859 million in 2019; a growth of over 800%.

The new research, 'Digital Identity: Technology Evolution, Regulatory Analysis & Forecasts 2019-2024' outlines the current state of the digital identity ecosystem, with viewpoints from a wide range of stakeholders across the industry. It also provides one of the most comprehensive guides available on the complex national and international regulatory landscape for digital identity, both currently and in the near future.

The research notes that, particularly in emerging economies with limited government identity provision, mobile phones will become the primary source of identity for over three billion people by 2024. These will be used heavily because they are simpler to scale than card-based identity, particularly in areas of Southeast Asia and Africa, where pre-existing government-issued identities are less common.

The research anticipated that other digital players will provide apps on top of this framework, with over 600 million discrete third-party identity apps using the operator-provided functions. These third-parties will typically monetise API calls from identity requestors; cutting operators out of this space, but the latter could potentially leverage their position in the future to gain further revenue.

Smartphone vendors will also capitalise on digital identity via the production of devices with advanced functionality, including biometric identity capabilities. Juniper Research expects over five billion smartphones globally to have some form of biometric in 2024, nearly 90% of all smartphones. However, the research warned that several services will still need traditional documentation to onboard users initially. As a result, it forecasts that traditional forms of identification will not be entirely displaced by mobile forms in the near future.

Juniper Research, which provides research and analytical services to the global hi-tech communications sector; providing consultancy, analyst reports and industry commentary, expects over 5 billion people worldwide to have a civic digital identity document by 2024, from an estimated 1.7 billion at the end of 2019. This will represent 74% of people who have any form of identity document at all, it says.

The growth of digital identity will be at a CAGR of 26.1% through the five-year forecast period, with some of the slowest markets being in areas like West Europe and Australia, where other forms of identification are available and widely accepted.

The biggest opportunities for this market lie in Africa. "Here, countries unencumbered by legacy systems are following Estonia's lead of rapid digital identity development," says Juniper Research. It expects almost 12 million people in Malawi to have digital identities in 2022, with Nigeria and other countries supplying digital identity to over 300 million people on the continent on both cards and apps.

It is certainly tough to find a balance when it comes to identification, especially in the digital world. This can spread from a simple email address and/or password that are easy for fraudsters to exploit, to more complicated authentication that is problematic for users to continually input.