China is to roll out a digital version of its national identity card that residents can store and access on their smartphone across the whole country “this year”, the Chinese premier Li Keqiang has told a press briefing.
The announcement at the National People’s Congress in Beijing comes after regional digital ID pilots beginning in 2018 that have enabled residents of cities such as Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Zhengzhou and Fuzhou to authenticate their identity with a virtual ID card for hotel registration, ticketing, banking and other use cases.
Keqiang said that one aim of the national rollout was “meeting basic living needs” in people’s daily lives, especially those living away from their home province.
“Nowadays some 100 million Chinese are in cross-provincial mobility. Some are elderly people living away from home towns with their children in cities. Some are for employment or education. They face much hassle of travel in getting certain things done,” Keqiang explained.
“Hence, accessing government services inter-provincially has become a new constant demand among the people.
“One new policy we will introduce this year is to make ID cards that are in most frequent use in people’s daily lives electronic, which helps one get certain things done by a simple code-scanning on cell phones.
“We will also provide convenience for people who do not use smartphones, especially the elderly. In the meantime, we will ensure information security and individuals’ privacy.”
Virtual ID cards are currently accepted in “more than 15 major cities in China”, but not in many smaller cities, according to a South China Morning Post report.