The government of Estonia is struggling to find a new mobile identity service provider. The country officially kicked off its search in August of 2021, but failed to come to terms with Belgium Mobile ID, which was the only company to submit a tender.
The problem, according to representatives from Estonia’s State Information System Board (RIA) and Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), is that Belgium Mobile ID could not provide e-services coverage for both public and private use cases of mobile ID technology. The tender did not meet Estonia’s budget limitations, and did not have many key features that the country is hoping for in a mobile ID solution.
As a result, Estonia now enters 2022 with a renewed sense of urgency. The country currently issues Mobile-IDs through a partnership with SK ID Solutions, which has acted as a consultant during the procurement process. However, that contract is set to expire on June 30, and SK ID Solutions has thus far declined to renew or submit a tender of its own. SK indicated that finances are not an obstacle, but that it is dissatisfied with Estonia’s official onboarding process. The company believes that the lengthy process – which forces people to register with the PPA website – discourages people from signing up for the platform and limits its growth potential.
SK ID Solutions would prefer a simpler registration process that allows people to sign up for a digital ID through their mobile service provider. The company already offers a private digital ID service in Estonia (dubbed Smart-ID) that is run separately from the state’s official Mobile-ID program. Smart-ID has more than 600,000 registered users (compared to 250,000 Mobile-ID users), though Smart-IDs cannot be used for some official applications, including elections.
Estonia’s Mobile-ID also requires the use of a special SIM card, which creates an additional barrier to entry. The state is aware that that is a problem, and is trying to move to a SIM-free solution (like Smart-ID) with its search for a service provider. Any Mobile-IDs issued before the end of the SK ID contract will still be valid for a full five-year period, but people will not be able to renew their Mobile-IDs or receive new ones after the deadline if Estonia does not manage to find another digital identity partner.
SK ID Solutions indicated that it is still in talks with the government, and that it is open to negotiating a new deal if certain conditions are met. Estonia is searching for a digital ID solution that will be compatible with the European Union’s new identity scheme, and recently started issuing new biometric ID cards.