Belgium's mobile eID scheme is all you need to access online services – thanks to European standards and solutions
©Photo courtesy of Belgian Mobile ID
- eID scheme: FAS/itsme®
- Parties involved: Belgian Federal Public Service Policy and Support (BOSA) with private sector consortium Belgian Mobile ID:
- Banks: Belfius, BNP Paribas Fortis, ING, KBC
- Mobile network operators: Orange Belgium, Proximus, Telenet
- Challenge: How to protect personal data while guaranteeing easy access to services
- Solution: A mobile digital identification solution that works without a card reader
- CEF Building Blocks: eID and eSignature
Easy access to services across borders
On 18 December 2019, Belgium's notification of the mobile eID scheme (FAS/itsme®) was published in the Official Journal of the European Union. The scheme consists of the Belgian government's Federal Authentication Service (FAS) and a digital identity app called itsme®. In essence, the notification confirms that itsme® complies with the European eIDAS Regulation and can connect to the eIDAS network, enabling it to be used interchangeably with other notified eID schemes all across Europe. In practice, this means that a Belgian student studying in France can now identify themselves using itsme® to enrol to classes. As another example, Belgian companies can submit official tenders for public procurement contracts in other Member States. Cross-border identification in these scenarios and many more is possible as long as the service is connected to the eIDAS network.
Collaboration with private sector
We all have experienced the hassle of navigating different online services with a myriad of passwords, usernames, pin codes, tokens and card readers. This hassle could be eliminated if we had unique, verified digital IDs and even better, if it was available on our smart phones. Luckily, there's an app called itsme® that provides exactly this. itsme® gives Belgian residents a government-backed single digital identity to log in and execute various transactions on numerous different online services. The solution was developed by Belgian Mobile eID, a consortium of leading banks and mobile network operators, and it has been recognised by the Belgian federal government. In fact, a Royal Decree allowed the recognition of private eID solutions in order to foster innovation and control government costs.
itsme® is now integrated into the Belgian FAS and together, the eID scheme operates under the eIDAS Regulation. To expedite solution development and ensure eIDAS compliance, both FAS and itsme® made use of the European Union's readily available specifications and solutions included in CEF eID and eSignature.
itsme® has been quickly adopted by residents, local companies and public sector organisations. Two and a half years after the launch of itsme® and two years after its recognition by the Belgian federal government, the app is now used by 30% of the Belgian population and it facilitates more than five million transactions per month. With itsme®, users can easily log in to submit tax returns, sign off financial transactions, and verify their identities when registering to use a new health insurance portal.
itsme®: single digital identity and qualified electronic signatures
Anyone with a Belgian eCard ID, a SIM card and a mobile phone can create a digital identity with itsme®. itsme® offers the following four main functionalities, which also form a simple, yet effective client journey:
- Sign up – share verified identity data to register for new service or open an account
- Log in – prove identity and authorisation to use an app, online service or IoT device
- Confirm actions – give consent to online transactions, such as payments and orders
- Qualified electronic signature – replaces paper-based handwritten signatures
When logging in to public services, itsme® works through FAS, which is operated by the Belgian national agency for Public Service Policy and Support (BOSA). FAS is a gateway that supervises the identification and authentication of users, without interacting with the app's internal processes. The Belgian eIDAS node is implemented as part of FAS according to the specifications defined in CEF eID Building Block, and using the CEF eID sample implementation. This means that users can use itsme® to authenticate and login to other Member States' online services, as long as the services are also connected to the eIDAS network. Together, the Belgian mobile eID scheme, consisting of FAS and itsme®, provides a "high level of identity assurance", as defined in the eIDAS Regulation. The illustration below shows itsme® in action.
©Illustration courtesy of Belgian Mobile ID
In addition to providing high-assurance identity verification, itsme® is also officially accredited as a Qualified Trust Service Provider for the validation of e-seals and e-signatures. The accreditation is also governed by the eIDAS Regulation, and it allows the app to be used for securely signing documents electronically. Qualified Electronic Signatures hold the same legal value in all EU and EEA Member States as handwritten signatures. For developing this service, the consortium followed European standards and specifications that are part of the CEF eSignature Building Block.
The result? A digital identity for a modern digital society
For the consortium behind itsme®, mobile digital identity presented an attractive opportunity that combines two hot topics: digital identity and mobile access. It is a novel service offering with a lot of demand, and an opportunity for all partnering companies to improve customer experience. Before itsme®, the de facto digital identification solution was based on the Belgian eCard and a card reader. Therefore, itsme® offers a mobile digital identification alternative for both public and private sector services, such as insurance, retail, banking, healthcare and more. Today, itsme® has 1.6 million users. Around 30 % of all public administration transactions happen through itsme®, connecting the user to more than 2,000 public service applications. The benefits of itsme® for users include:
- One single application for logging in
- Always the same easy process
- No more card readers
- Strong and secure authentication
- Verified identification without sharing all personal data
- One of the first Qualified Trust Service Providers for the validation of e-seals and e-signatures on a smart device
- As a Trust Service Provider, personal data is protected in line with the European privacy directive (GDPR)
ADDED VALUE FROM CEF
The standards and specifications included in the CEF eID and eSignature Building Blocks helped to develop the eID scheme faster and in compliance with regulations. The consortium developed itsme® based on the belief that a modern, digital society needs a digital ID that is easy to use – effectively bringing both European and Belgian digitalisation priorities to life. The facilitated access to digital services across borders brings Europe one step closer to achieving the Digital Single Market.
As more countries join the eIDAS network by implementing the eIDAS node, the bigger the business opportunities for companies and SMEs to provide services all across Europe.
How can CEF help you?
Our website CEF Digital provides details on the building blocks with accompanying technical documentation and support services that are available to all. We would be happy to help you get started, visit us at the links below to learn more.
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