Since the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched the mGovernment initiative in 2013, it has been spearheading digital transformation by integrating and coordinating between different government entities and other sectors to achieve paperless government and provide faster, easier and safer channels for round-the-clock digital public services.
UAE PASS, the country’s national digital identity and digital signature solution, is one such service.
Inspired by Vision 2021, a plan that foresees high quality of life built on world-class public infrastructure, UAE PASS also forms part of the UAE’s Centennial 2071, another plan that aims to build a future-focused government.
Launched in 2018 during GITEX Technology Week as a joint initiative between the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), Abu Dhabi Digital Authority and Smart Dubai, UAE PASS is also supported by key strategic partners including the Federal Authority for Identity & Citizenship, the Dubai Electronic Security Center, and the digital authorities of all seven emirates of the UAE.
What is UAE PASS?
UAE PASS is the United Arab Emirates’ national digital identity and digital signature solution. The service is free and is available for citizens and residents of the UAE. Individuals can start using it after registering on the UAE PASS mobile app, which is available on the App Store and Google Play.
The app enables all registered individuals to access more than 5,000 government, semi-government and private sector entities’ services through their respective websites and apps, and allows them to digitally sign and authenticate documents and transactions.
Citizens and residents can use UAE PASS to identify themselves to government or private sector service providers across the UAE through smartphone-based authentication. The application also enables users to request a digital version of official documents issued in their name.
An improved user experience
Before the launch of UAE PASS, citizens and residents needed to go to each entity separately to verify their identity and had to be physically present together with a government official to complete transactions and sign documents. With UAE pass, users only need to log in once without having to register for each entity separately.
Officially, UAE PASS digital signatures are valid and equivalent to handwritten signatures.
The adoption of UAE PASS and digital signatures supported the UAE government’s launch of the Bashr eService, through which businesses can be registered in the UAE in just 15 minutes. Additionally, by eliminating paper transactions and cutting on fuel trips to get these administrative services done, UAE PASS contributes to reduced CO2 emissions.
The entire UAE PASS infrastructure relies on a secure environment with various security measures put in place to protect users’ identities and signatures. UAE PASS relies on national public key infrastructure (PKI) that utilizes industry standard signing certificates. Secure storage of the keys is done through secure element (SE) and trusted execution environment (TEE) on the user’s mobile phone itself, as well as through a cloud-based hardware security module (HSM).
As a testament to the app’s security, several entities in the UAE financial sector use UAE PASS not only as an authentication method, but also as a blockchain-based document sharing platform that serves to onboard new customers and facilitate know your customer (KYC) updates. Enabling the opening of bank accounts without having to visit service centers physically was a welcome advancement especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Uninterrupted service delivery amid COVID-19
Early in 2020, when the first wave of COVID-19 emerged in the United Arab Emirates, the government relied on UAE PASS to continue delivering public services to socially-distancing residents during the lockdown.
Before the emergence of COVID-19, the number of UAE PASS verified accounts was 79,000 and the rate of user satisfaction with UAE Pass service was 70 per cent. After the pandemic hit, 30 additional partners were integrated into UAE PASS.
As of September 2020, the number of users increased to 243,970 verified accounts.
UAE PASS continues to serve as a stepping stone in the United Arab Emirates’ secure digital transformation journey.