Past, present and future of the Belgian eID
Sopra Steria is helping the Belgian Government to constantly improve its services to citizens thanks to the implementation of the electronic identity card.
- The Belgian Personal Electric Identity Card project started in 2002 and was the first nation-wide eID initiative in the world.
- Today, nearly 9 million Belgian citizens possess this next-generation identity card. Moreover it is now accessible for non-Belgian citizens who live in Belgium and for children under 12 years old.
- Sopra Steria has provided 589 Belgian municipalities with the necessary IT infrastructure
- Sopra Steria developed new applications and the implementation of the secured communication infrastructure.
Belgium’s business challenges
The Belgian government made the decision in 2002 to introduce an electronic identity card for all Belgian citizens, enabling them to authenticate themselves towards diverse applications and to use digital signatures. Introducing eIDs is part of the Belgian e-government project, which aims at simplifying and updating administrative services.
In practice, the Belgian eID has the size of a credit card and the main difference compared to the previous identity cards lies in the presence of a chip. This chip contains the usual data written on the card, plus the place of residence. Indeed, contrarily to the previous ID cards, the place of residence is only stored on the chip so that when people move they just have to go to their municipality to update the information, but don’t have to apply for a new card anymore.
An important aspect of the new ID card is that it contains two certificates enabling card holders to authenticate themselves remotely and to sign documents using an electronic signature which has the same legal value as a written signature.
The presence of these certificates paved the way to the development of new applications. The public sector was the first to launch new applications using the eID.
Some popular applications are for example “tax-on-web” which offers the possibility to fill in and send fiscal declarations online using the electronic signature, or “police-on-web” which permits to declare a theft and ask for your house to be watched while you are away. However, the government is far from being the only one to use the eID. Indeed, a development kit was created by Steria to enable private organisations to read the information on the card’s chip and to develop their own applications.
How we worked together
Sopra Steria was awarded this project as Prime contractor.
Sopra Steria supplied all necessary hardware and software centrally on the Ministry of Internal Affairs as well as in the cities. Sopra Steria also takes care of the implementation of the secured communication infrastructure between both (authentication, encryption).
During a first phase Sopra Steria’s mission consisted in redefining all the business processes for the Belgian ID card production. Sopra Steria developed the new applications and adapted the existing applications and infrastructure on the National Register, after which the infrastructure for the supply of the electronic identity card was delivered to the cities. In these cities, if necessary, the environment had to be adapted too (cabling, etc…). We developed the application that permits the 589 Belgian municipalities to update in real time the National Register, and we secured the information exchange between them. In addition Sopra Steria provided helpdesks and training.
Two subcontractors are involved in this project, one for the physical production of cards and one for the provision of certificates. Sopra Steria guarantees the secure and timely communication between them and the National Register and coordinates their work.
Results and benefits
Nearly nine million Belgian citizens have this next-generation identity card which may also be used for on-line administrative or commercial exchanges. This secure and evolutive card allows people to identify themselves on-line and authorise electronic signature of documents via certificates contained in the chip.
Evolution and future developments
From its inception the Belgian eID was created to enable the introduction of new features and it is yet far from having reached its full potential. New types of cards have been created for foreigners residing in Belgium and for children under 12 including slightly different features.
In the coming years the card will experience new developments.
Finally, as more and more people get equipped with the necessary hardware, the interest of the private sector for applications using the electronic authentication or electronic signature grows. Hence, we can expect the number of applications using the eID to continue to grow.