The success of digital identity hinges on the power of mobile

In Singapore, the number of internet users is predicted to reach 4.86 million by 2021. This market potential is driving a surge in digital services, opened up by growing innovation in the digital age. According to Norton, an average of US$545 was lost by victims of online crime in Singapore, much higher than the global average of US$358 a victim. These statistics show a significant risk for Singapore’s consumers with many businesses struggling to find a convenient means of authenticating their customers’ digital identities.

For years, the password/username combination has been the backbone of online transactions for customers of institutions spanning the financial services and retail industries. However, as more online shops and financial services become available, so the number of logins and passwords that consumers need to remember to live their online lives becomes increasingly unmanageable. This has been exacerbated by the number of banks requiring physical secure keys to log on. Forgotten details are easily retrieved, but customers are, frankly, frustrated by the amount of information they need to remember.  

Thanks to the increasing availability of broadband services in rural areas, Singapore’s e-commerce industry is set to reach US$5.489 million in 2022. However, tedious authentication processes are resulting in heavy losses for the retail industry, with a high number of customers leaving websites at the checkout stage when asked to register or recall a password – resulting in the dreaded ‘shopping cart abandonment’ as customers terminate their purchases.

There is a clear need for an alternative digital identity solution to this fragmented password model. The difficulty lies in designing a solution that is universal and applicable to all sectors. To ensure ease of use and maximise adoption, any solution must be suitable for both private and public sector services, and be very simple for consumers to adopt.

The development of a universal solution will be most effective if it is anchored in a device which people have with them at all times. What Singaporean consumers don’t know is that the solution is already in their pocket. According to Deloitte, Singapore has the highest penetration of mobile phones globally. Additionally, it is estimated there will be 4.27 million smartphones in Singapore by the end of the year.

Mobiles have played a key role in driving economic growth in Singapore by giving citizens access to a global market, aided by improvements in 4G and 3G connectivity. The number of people who consider their phones as integral to their daily lives will only increase with the introduction of new apps and digital services.

Singapore’s mobile landscape demonstrates that digital services will be increasingly designed primarily for the smartphone. However, for the expansion of digital services to really take off, organisations will need to develop a scalable digital identity solution. Only a solution that is streamlined, secure and convenient will take hold and grow in adoption. That’s why the GSMA has already begun work with of Singapore’s leading mobile network operators to roll out Mobile Connect, an operator-based authentication service which provides a convenient and secure log-in solution with privacy protection. Payment providers, Ex-Link and Nets have already signed up, along with three mobile operators: M1, StarHub and Singtel.

Mobile Connect protects a consumer’s privacy by using the mobile operator’s network and proven SIM security to authenticate that individual online. The solution never shares the consumer’s mobile number or any other personal data with the website or application being used without the user’s explicit consent. Instead, during the transaction, their identity is verified by matching information from the user and the service provider to generate a unique, anonymous customer reference. This makes it the simplest, most secure method of online authentication.

The sooner more digital service providers adopt a universal solution like Mobile Connect, the sooner we can welcome a brand new generation of digital services in Singapore. 


Jaikishan Rajaraman, Global Head of Technology at GSMA