Digital Identity [Part 3] — Governance

Crishantha Nanayakkara
3 min readMay 16, 2023


An introduction to the key aspects of the Digital Identity Governance

While the Digital Identity for a country is established, there are a few governance factors to be established in order to be sustainable in the long run [1].

Some of those key factors are:

  1. Implementing a Digital ID Authority — This is an institution, which can provide the technical capability, human, political and financial resources.
  2. A high level corporation from diverse stakeholders (through an advisory board, a steering committee, civil society consultations, inputs from international experts, etc)
  3. Independent bodies that are legally empowered and have the capacity to oversee ID related activities.

Digital Identity Authority

An ID authority is a specialized entity responsible for implementing and/or overseeing the collection, verification, storage, and sharing of personal identity data, credential issuance, and the verification and authentication of identity data.

This has been identified as the main institution, which has the primary accountability for the implementation of an ID system for a country.

Many countries, who have adopted Digital Identity have implemented it though such an institution (See Figure 01).

Figure 01 — ID Authorities in different countries

In order to succeed, the identity system must be empowered by law and political will should demonstrate the capacity to serve as a champion of identity.

There are multiple potential institutional arrangements or governing models for an ID authority (See Figure 02).

Figure 02 — Governance Models and Adopted Countries

Out of these two options, the autonomous entity literally be more powerful since it is under the direct supervision of the Cabinet or the highest political hierarchy.

Why Autonomous Entity?

  1. It is a fresh approach without inefficiency or legacies from unsuccessful previous projects.
  2. It is a “neutral” setup, which can avoid legacy institutionalization among ministries
  3. It is a setup, which could be trusted by the citizens to manage personal data than ministries or departments, which linked to national security.
  4. Has the ability to attract best talent from the market to ensure efficient technical capacity.
  5. Fiscal autonomy could give this setup to be self-sufficient by having the ability to raise their own revenue by giving specific personalized services to the public
  6. Has the ability to survive political changes in a country

Roles of an ID System

In a typical digital identity system life cycle, there are multiple roles (See Figure 03) to be taken care of. ID Authority basically does three key things in this life cycle.

  1. Set policies and standards
  2. Certify partners
  3. Supervise implementation
Figure 03 — Roles in an ID System


Hope you have got a good understanding of the importance of an autonomous ID authority in a typical national identity initiative. If you want to do it right that is the best way forward in terms of identity governance.


  1. ID4D Practitioner’s Guide —
  2. National Identity Management Commission of Nigeria:
  3. Unique Identification Authority of India:
  4. Philippines Statistics Authority:



Crishantha Nanayakkara

Enterprise Architect, Consultant @ FAO (UN), Former CTO, ICTA Sri Lanka