Japan to implement ID cards following Estonia’s example

Japan is the first large country who is going to implement a digital personal identification card, following Estonia’s example.

The step was announced on 23 October, following a meeting between the Estonian Prime Minister, Taavi Rõivas, and the Japanese Finance Minister, Akira Amari, who visited Estonia to get acquainted with Estonian e-services. The two ministers discussed developing digital societies and closer economic relations between the two countries.

“I am glad Japan has taken a decisive step towards laying a foundation for the digital society of the 21st century by creating a unique personal identification code system,” Rõivas said when acknowledging the successful launch of the Japanese MyNumber project.

“I am delighted that Estonia’s experiences and knowledge in relation to the ID card are useful to others as well. Cooperation in this field will certainly continue in the future,” Rõivas added.

During the meeting, Amari presented Rõivas with his personal MyNumber card. Amari, in turn, became the newest e-resident of Estonia.

Japan will launch the MyNumber National ID system in January 2016. It is Japan’s first national ID system and as declared by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is expected to be a step towards a “single card society”. Abe himself became Estonian e-resident earlier this year.

The Estonian ID card system, one of the most advanced in the world, is the basis for all of the digital services that are available in the country. Introduced in 2002, the ID card is not just a typical piece of plastic with a picture, but a highly sophisticated digital access card for all of Estonia’s secure e-services. The chip on the card contains embedded files which, using 2048-bit public key encryption, enable it to be used as definitive proof of identity in an electronic environment.

It is used as the national health insurance card, as proof of identification when logging into bank accounts from a home computer, as a pre-paid public transport ticket in Tartu as well as  for digital signatures, online voting, accessing government databases to check medical records, filing taxes, and picking up e-prescriptions.

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Cover: Japanese IT-entrepreneur Tsutomu Komori holding his Estonian e-residency card.

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About the author: Silver Tambur

Silver Tambur is the cofounder and Editor-in-Chief of Estonian World. He has previously studied journalism at the University of Tartu, and Politics & Society at the Birkbeck College, University of London. Silver has been the editor at the Estonian Public Broadcasting’s news service in English, as well as contributing for the Business Sense magazine in the UK, Deutsche Welle and Radio New Zealand. You can also follow him on Twitter. You can write to Silver at silver@estonianworld.com.